First Nations, Aquilinis propose Enbridge alternative

An environmentally sound pipeline led by First Nations is the best way to move forward as an alternative to the Enbridge's Northern Gateway project, according to a company consisting of aboriginal and private business interests.

An environmentally sound pipeline led by First Nations is the best way to move forward as an alternative to the Enbridge's Northern Gateway project, according to a company consisting of aboriginal and private business interests.

The April 14 announcement from Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd. comes just two days after Kitimat residents voted against supporting the $6.5-billion Northern Gateway Project in a non-binding plebiscite.

Eagle Spirit Energy president Sean Helin said after a year of consulting with First Nations groups, his company understands shipping oil through a Kitimat-based supertankers facility is off the table as it exposes the coastline to too much risk.

He added there is no timeline, route or price tag attached to the pipeline at present.

Instead, Helin said his company is relying on consultations with northern B.C. First Nations groups to dictate the pace and direction with which this goes forward.

"There has to be some level of understanding from everybody that the only way this is going to happen is with First Nations support," he said.

"If we're going to do it, we're going to have to do it in a way that not only First Nations, but ordinary citizens are going to accept."

The company, which is made up of representatives from the First Nations business community as well as the Aquilini Investment Group, said it's examining the possibility of building a state-of-the-art pipeline that would only transport synthetic crude oil — not bitumen. The pipeline would connect to an upgrader in either northern Alberta or northeastern B.C.

Eagle Spirit Energy has touted these methods as more environmentally sound for coastal and inland waters.

The company said in a release it's signed non-disclosure agreements with a "substantial number" of First Nations in northern B.C.

"We'll have to have investors own a piece of this, because there's going to be huge amounts of money required, but First Nations will own a substantial stake in it and we're committed to following their lead on what they want to do," Helin said.

torton@biv.com

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