TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s government on Tuesday approved a controversial proposed pipeline to the Pacific Coast that would allow oil to be shipped to Asia, which would be a major step in the country’s efforts to diversify its oil exports.

Enbridge’sNorthern Gateway, along with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, project is critical to Canada, which needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. The northern Alberta region has the world’s third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.

The approval was expected but whether the Northern Gateway pipeline ever gets built remains in question as there is fierce aboriginal and environmental opposition in British Columbia and court challenges are expected.

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