* Attack on Enbridge is first by a Canadian minister
* Enbridge pipeline leaks have angered h U.S. regulators
* Comments increase doubts major pipeline will be built
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Aug 3 A top Canadian cabinet minister
has blasted Enbridge Inc's environmental record,
casting more doubt on whether the company will be able to build
a controversial pipeline from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific
Heritage Minister James Moore's comments - the first attack
by any top Canadian government official on Enbridge - also
reveal that a rare split has opened up inside the cabinet over
the proposed C$6 billion ($6 billion) Northern Gateway project,
which the Conservative government backs strongly.
Moore is the senior political minister for British Columbia,
the province where the pipeline would end. His remarks come at a
bad time for Enbridge, which is under heavy pressure in the
United States over leaks from its existing network there.
The 1,177 km (731 mile) Northern Gateway would take 525,000
barrels a day of crude from the Alberta tar sands across the
Rocky Mountains to Kitimat on the British Columbia coast
for export to China and other energy-hungry Asian nations.
"This project will not survive public scrutiny unless
Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the
public and to answer those very legitimate questions about the
way in which they've operated their business in the very recent
past," Moore told a Vancouver radio station on Wednesday.
The provincial Liberal government in British Columbia -
trailing the anti-Gateway main opposition party ahead of an
election next year - toughened its tone last month and vowed to
block the pipeline unless Alberta handed over more royalties.
Moore compared Enbridge's record with that of Kinder Morgan
, which he said had made all the right moves as it went
ahead with plans to more than double the capacity of its Trans
Mountain Line, which also runs from Alberta to British Columbia.
"There's a difference, I think, night and day between
(Kinder Morgan) ... and Enbridge, which I think their track
record is not one that I think any other company should follow
if they want to do business in British Columbia," he said.
British Columbia is important for the Conservatives, which
hold 21 of the province's 36 federal seats.
Asked about Moore's comments, Enbridge President Al Monaco
said his company has held 17,000 meetings so far with people who
might be affected by the Northern Gateway.
"It's appropriate because there is concern about the
project, and it's our job to make sure that we are explaining
the benefits, and ensuring that we address the risks that people
are raising," he told a conference call on Thursday.
Moore's remarks contradict those of Immigration Minister
Jason Kenney, who is from Alberta and is one of the most
influential members of the federal cabinet. Kenney last week
condemned the British Columbia government's hard line on
Foreign Minister John Baird, who like Kenney is close to
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also backs Alberta's refusal to
consider handing over more money.
The federal Conservative government this year pushed through
measures making it easier for major pipelines to be built,
prompting critics to protest that Ottawa was determined the
Northern Gateway should go ahead no matter what.
"Anybody who's making assumptions about the ultimate goal of
the federal government should understand that our goal is not to
ram through the pipeline, but it's to put in place the best
policies to ensure Canadian products can get to market with the
consent of Canadians," Moore said.
A spokesman for Harper declined to comment directly on
Moore's remarks, saying "the government's policy is for the
responsible development of Canada's natural resources".
Enbridge, which had long insisted the Northern Gateway would
be safe as initially planned, last month announced additional
safety measures that would increase the overall cost by as much
as C$500 million.
"(That) raises doubts about their sincerity and their
environmental stewardship in the first place," Moore said.
The U.S. pipeline regulator raised pressure on Enbridge on
Thursday over the latest spill on its U.S. oil pipeline network,
demanding that it submit a plan to improve the safety of the
entire 1,900 mile (3,060 km) system before restarting a key
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)