The federal government has approved the Northern Gateway project with 209 conditions.

The $6.5-billion pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge will carry crude oil from northern Alberta to the B.C. coast.

But today's announcement is far from the last step.

Northern Gateway pipeline map

"Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator — the NEB — how it will meet the 209 conditions," said Greg Rickford, the federal minister of Natural Resources. "It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments."

Alberta's interim premier, Dave Hancock, called it a step forward in accessing new markets for Canada’s energy resources.

“New markets for our products will create and support more jobs, and generate increased revenue to help pay for vital public services like quality health care and education for all Canadians." 

Reaction mixed

Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, says the pipeline would greatly accelerate climate pollution in Alberta.

Greenpeace

Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, says the decision shows that the federal government is willing to push the pipeline through regardless of the cost to people, the environment or the planet. (CBC)

He says Greenpeace plans to keep pressure on the Alberta government to "start making different choices."

"I think the reason you’re seeing such significant pipeline opposition is because of the threats that the tar sands pose. Part of those are threats that are along the pipeline row, but part of it is because it would also accelerate all the damage that we’re seeing right here in Alberta,” he said.

“The one thing I take solace in is the fact that, regardless of today’s decision, this pipeline still has so many significant hurdles in front of it that I think it’s a very safe bet to say it’s never going to be built.”

Greg Stringham, vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, called the decision "just the first focal point on oil [infrastructure] that we have seen for a long time. We do have one [pipeline] that goes down through Vancouver already. This is the biggest brand new one that we're looking at right now, and its become an important aspect of Canada stepping on to that global stage as a resource economy."

But the economic benefits are only part of the picture, Stringham added.

"The two things that we hear the most are is it safe and what's in it for me — not in a selfish way but what is mean for us as citizens of British Colombia," he said.

"But first off and foremost is it safe not only to the environment but also to the citizens? It really has the onus on us as the industry and the proponents to demonstrate that this is one of the safest in the world and here's what's being done and inviting that consultation to ensure that's there. 

Many Alberta politicians say the decision is positive for the province.

PC party leadership hopeful Jim Prentice said he is encouraged by the announcement. He had been tasked with resuscitating stalled talks with First Nations in B.C. and Alberta in March.

Ric McIver, who is also running to be the next premier of Alberta, says all Canadians will benefit from energy development that is "done with the highest environmental standards."

Alberta Senator Doug Black called the approval a positive step, but said work must be done to build partnerships with British Columbia and First Nations affected by the project.

Positive impact, say Alberta politicians

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith welcomed the decision.

"This project will create jobs, increase market access for Alberta energy products and strengthen national and provincial economies across the country when it is finally completed," she said.

“I’m hopeful construction will begin on this project right away. However, I remain skeptical. I believe we will likely still have challenges to address to see this project become a reality."

Karl Hauch, the mayor of Bruderheim, Alta. — the closest community to start of the pipeline, says he is not surprised by the decision.

"This will have a positive impact on our community. There will be spin-off for business and folks to gain employment working on this pipeline," he said.

"I think people here understand that for our resources to get to tide water this is something that needed to happen. In our community, many of the folks here work in the resource industry already. Their livelihoods depend on this. This will be received in a favourable light here in Bruderheim."