The Alberta government called for the National Energy Board's conditional approval for Enbridge's controversial Northern Gateway oil pipeline, but flashpoints linger around environmental issues, First Nations' rights and the economic benefit the megaproject brings to British Columbia.
On Thursday, releasing its decision, the federal agency's joint review panel found that Gateway- a $6.5-billion line which would transport oil sands crude to the B. C. coast for shipment to Asia - would be economically beneficial to Canada.
It mentioned, no significant adverse environmental effects will be caused due to this development with the exception of "low end" impacts on woodland caribou and grizzly bears.
However, the report contains 209 conditions for approval, including requiring Enbridge to have a marine mammal protection plan, a research program on the cleanup of heavy oil and $950 million in liability coverage for oil spills.
The three-member panel led by chair Sheila Leggett said, "We find that the project's potential benefits for Canada and Canadians outweigh the potential burdens and risks."
The issue will now go to the federal Conservative cabinet, which has 180 days to deliver the final decision on the project.
Diana McQueen, Provincial Energy Minister said the release of the report was a "great day" for Alberta, which is desperately looking towards opening new markets other than the United States to gain better prices for its landlocked energy resources. She said from Edmonton, "This is a major project for us to make sure we can reach other markets in Asia."
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