The Canadian government was urged today to resist pressure from the United States and wait at least 10 years before approving one of two multibillion-dollar pipeline projects for transporting natural gas from Alaska through the Canadian Arctic.
The report, prepared for the government by Judge Thomas Berger of the British Columbia Supreme Court, urged the government to settle the land claims of 17,000 Eskimos and Indians in the Arctic and seek solutions to serious pollution threats before making a decision. In any case, he opposed a 2,200-mile pipeline through the Mackenzie River Valley of the Northwest Territories.
The U.S. government is interested in pursuing only one of three alternative routes for bringing Alaskan gas to markets in the lower 48 states - the Mackenzie Valley route, a route following the Alaska Highway through the Yukon Territory or a third route across Alaska and south by tanker.
Berger was given a mandate to examine the social and environmental effects of the Mackenzie Valley route and he came out strongly against it. He could find no serious objection to the second Canadian route, although he was not given specific instructions to investigate it. The third route would not involve Canadian territory.
Washington, which wants to choose one of the three routes by Sept. 1, is pressing the Canadian government to make a decision before then. Canadian authorities have not indicated so far which, if either, of the two alternatives they will support.
Before making a final decision the Ottawa government from the National Energy Board, the federal energy supply agency, on the economic impact of the two routes.
If Canada rejects both the Mackenzie Valley and the southern Yukon pipelines, the only alternative left to the United States would be the so-called El Paso route, shipping gas across Alaska by pipeline, liquefying it and transporting it south in tankers.
Either of the two Canadian routes would cost somewhere between $6 billion and $10 billion. Berger said the Mackenzie Valley route, with its branch line across the fertile Arctic landscape to Alaska, would permanently disrupt the lives of thousands of natives, cause potentially disasterous pollution problems and destroy fish, birds and wildlife.
He said a 10-year delay is needed to settle native claims to ownership of thousands of square miles of Arctic land.