As a councillor in Kitimat, a town on the northwest coast of British Columbia, Edwin Empinado knows a lot about the Northern Gateway project.
The $6.5 billion projects by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. involves two pipelines. One will carry bitumen from the oil sands of Alberta to the port of Kitimat.
The second will transport condensate, a substance to dilute bitumen, from Kitimat back to Alberta.
In June 2014, the Conservative government at that time approved the controversial project with 209 conditions. Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party pledged that if he were to become prime minister, Northern Gateway will not push through.
Trudeau and his party won a solid majority in the 2015 federal election. So far as of January 2016, Empinado hasn’t heard any concrete statements from the new government about the controversial project.
Empinado has taken a neutral stance on the issue, noting that local governments do not have jurisdiction over projects like Northern Gateway. However, the Kitimat councillor originally from Cebu City in the Philippines wants assurances that the undertaking doesn’t harm the environment.
“The federal government has to make sure that policies are in place to keep our environment safe,” Empinado said.
Empinado also said that “quick and appropriate” emergency response protocols should be in place. In addition, there should “appropriate consultation” with First Nations and local governments.
“Furthermore, I want to be informed, educated, updated and involved,” said Empinado, a nurse who settled in Kitimat together with his wife and young daughter in 2005. “I need the experts' input to understand. I want to know what government evidence-based research is out there that supports their decision that it could be done safely and efficiently.”
Empinado was first elected councillor in 2011. He won a second term in the last municipal election.
Empinado emphasized: “The residents’ concerns are safety, protection of our environment, value added taxation, quick emergency response, consultation, [and] jobs.”