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Enbridge Ordered to Consult with First Nations over Spill

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Enbridge has to prove to Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) that its pipeline outside the Northwest Territories town of Wrigley can take full pressure before fully restarting the pipeline section between Norman Wells to Zama that leaked up to 1,500 barrels into woodlands in May. Moreover, the NEB ordered the oil giant to consult with First Nations and others affected by the spill.

"Our top priority is people safety and the protection of the environment," said NEB Chair and CEO Gaétan Caron in a June 10 press release from the NEB. "We will continue to actively oversee the cleanup and communicate with the communities until we are satisfied that the necessary steps are being taken to operate the facilities in a safe and secure manner. The order that we issued today also requires Enbridge to enhance their communication with the local community."

The NEB said that Enbridge had reduced pressure on the pipeline before starting it up again on May 20, especially in light of the drastic upward estimate of the spill from an initial four barrels to between 700 and 1,500 barrels leaked.

The beleaguered Calgary-based Enbridge, whose pipelines have been springing leaks to the tune of millions of cleanup dollars on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border, is having a tough time getting its other pipelines approved, since several First Nations are deterred by its track record.

A 424-page report that Enbridge filed with the NEB details the company’s saga, The Prince George Citizen of British Columbia reported on June 10. At least half a dozen First Nations have declined even to meet with the company over a benefits package valued at nearly $1 billion that Enbridge has offered in return for letting the Northern Gateway pipeline traverse their lands. Nine First Nations “appear not to have rejected [the project] outright,” the newspaper said.

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Gateway is part of the infrastructure that would transport crude from the Alberta oil sands to Asia. According to The Prince George Citizen, some the McLeod Lake Indian Band and the Lheidli Tenneh First Nation “have engaged in discussions with the Calgary-based company with an interest in learning about economic opportunities. The two First Nations have also participated in meeting with Enbridge on pipeline construction and safety.”

Nine First Nations have also been presented with Enbridge's economic benefits package, with the 10 per cent ownership stake alone worth $280 million over 30 years. But there are others that have refused to talk with Enbridge, and still others that have changed their minds, the Citizen said.

And the NEB is holding Enbridge accountable as well, especially when it comes to First Nation peoples living in the area. The agency is also investigating the cause and contributing factors in the spill, which the company said was caused by a pinhole-sized crack.

It wasn’t even discovered by Enbridge workers, Northern News Service reported—hunters from Pehdzeh Ki First Nation noticed the smell first, then found the leak. CBC News said the nations’ spring duck season has been canceled because the oil is near wetlands that the ducks frequent.

“The Board expects Enbridge to continue with its consultations with affected people, including Aboriginal groups, and to report to the Board about the outcomes of those consultations,” the NEB said in an order to the company. Not only that, but Enbridge also has a June 24 deadline for reporting back to the agency on its consultations.