Native groups vow to fight Enbridge pipeline

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Aboriginal groups on Canada’s Pacific Coast vowed on Tuesday to block Enbridge Inc’s proposed Gateway pipeline to carry oil sands crude to export markets including China.

The groups said the environmental danger of oil tankers traveling through the coastal waters of British Columbia is too great, and the announcement could set the stage for a protracted legal and political fight over the pipeline.

“Some people are saying (the pipeline) is a done deal. It’s not,” Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, a coalition of native Indian communities in the area, often called the Great Bear Rainforest.

The proposed project would carry crude from the oil sands in northern Alberta to a port facility in Kitimat, British Columbia.

Aboriginal leaders said their opposition to the project was strong enough for them to continue the fight, even if Enbridge gets government and court permission to build it -- including blockading tankers.

“We are prepared to put boats across the channel,” Gerald Amos, a director of the coalition and a native leader from the Kitimat area, told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver.

The groups announced their opposition on the 21st anniversary of the Exxon Valdez tanker’s massive oil spill in Alaska. And the Vancouver announcement was accompanied by national newspaper ads comparing the two events.

Steve Wuori, vice-president of liquids pipelines for Enbridge Inc, Canada’s second-largest pipeline company, told the Reuters Canadian Oil Sands Summit in Calgary that he was frustrated by the comparison to the Valdez disaster.

“It’s disappointing to see the dialogue over what is an important infrastructure project under stringent environmental standards and engineering practices reduced to a recounting of a 21-year-old incident,” Wuori said.