Enbridge is holding out hope the District of Fort St. James will reconsider its opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline, but the community's mayor said it's unlikely.
Fort St. James Mayor Rob MacDougall said there's nothing the Calgary-based energy giant can do to persuade him that the proposed pipeline is worthwhile locally or regionally. The district council voted unanimously to oppose the pipeline at a special meeting on Tuesday night.
"We have too much to lose here in Fort St. James in particular," MacDougall said, pointing to all the rivers and lakes in the region that could be impacted if there ever was a spill. "My children live here, my grandchildren too. The legacy I want to leave is a positive legacy, not one that may create major problems in the future."
Enbridge, the company behind the $6 billion plan to build a pipeline to connect Alberta's oilsands with Kitimat, met with MacDougall and other Fort St. James councillors multiple times in the months leading up to the decision and Janet Holder, the company's executive vice-president for western access, hopes those talks continue.
"We would hope that though they've made this decision, that they're still open to continual dialogue with us," Holder said. "We've always been engaged with Fort St. James and we continue to want to be engaged with Fort St. James."
While most governments of all levels in the region are waiting until the federal environmental review of the project wraps up next year before staking out a position, MacDougall said he and his council have already heard enough to make up there minds and saw no reason to hold off on taking a vote on the issue.
"We lack confidence on the ability of Enbridge to follow through with the maintenance and proper monitoring of their entire pipeline system," he said.
If the community had waited for the review process to work itself through, Holder believes Fort St. James could have reached a different conclusion. She called on other communities along the pipeline route to stay engaged in the process and ask appropriate questions.
Fort St. James will have a chance to ask those questions of Enbridge again in the coming months. It will apply to be a government intervener at the final stage of hearings the federal Joint Review Panel is conducting into the pipeline. Some of those meetings will be in Prince George, tentatively set for between Oct. 1 and Nov. 10.
The district's resolution isn't binding and MacDougall acknowledges it will do little to stop the project if other levels of government decided to push it through, but he said it was important for his community to have its voice heard. He cited a survey the district recently conducted where a strong majority of the 198 respondents were against the plan.
MacDougall said getting unanimous consent was important because it allows him to speak with the full weight of council behind him, but he acknowledged the decision didn't come easy.
"We understand that there could be some funding that could come to the province of B.C., that could help out in a time of need when our forest industry is struggling a little bit and maybe the revenue's not there," he said. "But I think in this instance the environmental (issues) outweigh the monetary end of the project."