Gloves come off in another oil sands pipeline battle

These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources. Finally, if all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach: sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further. They do this because they know it can work. It works because it helps them to achieve their ultimate objective: delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable.

Oliver’s comments, which reflect claims by industry-backed oil sands advocates, aren’t sitting well with environmentalists in Canada or the United States who are battling the proposed Enbridge pipeline, which would carry oil sands to a marine terminal in British Columbia.

Tzeporah Berman, a Canadian environmentalist with Greenpeace, said via Twitter Monday that Oliver’s letter is “unbelievable.” 

“A declaration of war on civil society to protect oil profits from [Canadian] gov,” tweeted Berman, who is the co-director of Greenpeace International’s Global Climate and Energy Program.

In the United States, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council took to the group’s blog to argue that it’s multinational oil companies that are “hijacking” Canadians’ ability to plot their energy future.

She writes: “[I]n response to Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver who published the latest in a series of attempts to undermine opposition to the Northern Gateway project: I say that care for our planet and our health makes sense and is not ‘radical.’”

“Wanting to fight climate change in the face of the violent storms, floods, droughts, and fires that we have experienced in just the last year in North America makes sense and is not “radical.” And wanting to preserve our homes, rivers, communities and coasts is something that people across Canada and the United States agree on,” Casey-Lefkowitz wrote.

The fight over the proposed Enbridge project is also linked to the U.S. political battle over TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Harper is renewing warnings that with Keystone ensnared in U.S. domestic political struggles, Canada must hasten efforts to send oil sands to Asian markets.

“I think it's essential, based on what's occurred with Keystone XL, that this country does diversify its energy-export markets,” he said in a radio interview last week, The Wall Street Journal reports in a report about the Enbridge proposal.

The Obama administration has sought to delay a final decision on the Keystone pipeline until after this year’s elections.

But the deal on payroll tax cut legislation struck in December seeks to force a decision within two months — a timeline that White House officials have warned will all but guarantee the project’s rejection (more on Keystone here, here and here).

On Monday, House GOP leaders sought to use the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to increase pressure on President Obama to approve Keystone.

“President Obama says 'we can’t wait' for action on jobs. Well, Canada isn’t waiting. One way or another, a new energy pipeline will be built. The question the president and Democrats in Washington need to answer is: would Democrats rather American workers get these Keystone jobs? Or China?,” House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office said in a statement.

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