The controversial Northern Gateway oil and natural gas pipeline planned by Enbridge Inc. for western Canada has a prominent new opponent: former environmental minister David Anderson has come out against the project.

Edmonton Journal reports that Anderson had some sharp words for the Alberta-based company, which he said has responded inadequately to serious leaks, including one in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

“Enbridge clearly has a cowboy culture quite inappropriate for building a pipeline in one of the most sensitive parts of the world,” he said.

The 730-mile Northern Gateway project is intended to transport crude oil from oil sands in Alberta to a marine terminal in Kitimat for export to Asia. A parallel pipe would send natural gas condensate in the other direction so it can be used to thin the petroleum products for pipeline transport. Environmental and a number of native groups oppose the project because of the potential for spills and because of environmental problems associated with oil sands extraction.

The $6 billion project has also created political tensions within Canada because it would provide the most economic benefits to Alberta while British Columbia would take on much of the environmental risk. British Columbia’s premier, Christy Clark, has demanded that Alberta share economic benefits to get agreement from her province.

Some opponents of the pipeline argue Clark’s position is inadequate and that no amount of money can justify allowing the project to go through.

For Anderson’s part, he argues that Canadian regulators haven’t effectively dealt with the risks involved in the pipeline. In particular, he criticized Enbridge for failing to give the National Energy Board the names of companies that it will contract with to transport petroleum products to Asia.

A recent poll found that 59 percent of British Columbians oppose the pipeline, but 24 percent say they might change their mind based on environmental or economic considerations. Respondents said Enbridge might be able to convince them to support the project by offering a clear outline of economic benefits to the province, completing an environmental review process or establishing strong spill prevention and response standards.

Photo of oil pipeline in Alaska. Credit: zieak/Flickr