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Canadian Natural Gas Pipeline Gets Federal Backing

The New York Times


Natural gas exploration and production has been on a tear in recent years, thanks to the explosion of drilling in shale gas fields across the United States and the first glimmers of a boom in Europe.

At the same time, natural gas production in neighboring Canada has been declining because of aging conventional gas fields — as well as a series of delays in the long-planned construction of a natural gas pipeline along the MacKenzie Valley in western Canada that would connect Arctic fields with the rest of the country.

However, the 800-mile project, — spearheaded by Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil — jumped a major hurdle late Wednesday.

A federal review panel that had been studying the $16 billion project for the last five years issued a detailed report endorsing it.

The report concluded that the pipeline “would deliver valuable and lasting overall benefits and avoid significant adverse environmental impacts.”

The project has long been controversial with some tribal communities and environmental groups as a threat to local cultures, and because it would probably provide a feedstock for the further development of Canada’s oil sands, a fuel source with a large carbon footprint.

The report offered 176 recommendations to diminish impacts, and called for regional plans to protect many species, including polar bears, caribou and beluga whales.

But it’s still not certain that the oil companies will want to go ahead with the project, given the glut of gas now on the market and low prices.

The federal government also must decide whether it wants to contribute money to the project.


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