VICTORIA - British Columbia's premier is promising to use the province's status as an intervener at National Energy Board hearings to press Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) for answers about its proposed $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline, though she continues to insist she's not ready to answer the thorny question of the province's position on the project.
Clark has been increasing the rhetoric about the Northern Gateway proposal since a U.S. report last week that was highly critical of Enbridge's response to a pipeline spill in Michigan.
She continued that tough talk on Monday, promising to outline areas the province has concerns about later this week but again dodging questions about whether her government will ultimately support the project.
"What I said was, 'Wait a few days and you'll find out more about what we're going to be doing with respect to intervening in the process,'" she said.
"I would urge patience."
Clark said B.C. government officials will pose questions about the project at the ongoing federal joint environmental approval review panel hearings, where the province has intervener status.
"We want to understand the impacts of this," she said. "We want to know the potential benefits and the potential risks of this proposal."
The federal regulatory hearings, which started last January, are set to conclude in April 2013. An environmental assessment report on the project is due in the fall of 2013 and a final decision is expected by the end of 2013.
Clark defended her government's decision to participate in the hearing process as an intervener and not as a government.
She said registering as an intervener allowed B.C. to gather up-to-date information, including the recent U.S. National Transportation Safety Board report, which detailed the environmental devastation caused by a massive oil leak from an Enbridge pipeline along Michigan's Kalamazoo River.
"As an intervener, we're going to be asking questions about this (Northern Gateway) project and we're also going to be asking about some of the questions that arise from the NTSB review," said Clark.
"We are going to be putting some tough questions to the company as we get into these hearings based on what we see in that (NTSB) report."
Clark said intervener status allows the province to cross-examine Enbridge and present a closing argument.
Opposition New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming said Clark should have told British Columbians long ago whether the province supports or opposes Northern Gateway.
The NDP says it does not support the project and is looking for ways to put up legal roadblocks if it forms government following the May 2013 election.
"She owes people a lot more than some kind of update on why her government continues to take a non-position on this project," Fleming said. "The Christy Clark government has been totally missing in action on this project."
Environment Minister Terry Lake said intervener status allowed the B.C. government to build an inventory of information it needs to make an informed decision on the project.
He said the Michigan spill report will become part of the province's line of questioning for Enbridge.
"It affects the landscape, no question, when you have a report like that," Lake said.
Enbridge plans to construct a twin pipeline from the Edmonton area to Kitimat, on B.C.'s northern coast, where oil will be shipped by super tankers to Asia.
10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP
The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>
9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980
Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed
Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.
Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves
Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>
5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.
One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry
Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>
3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands
Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.
2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat
Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>
1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?
The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.