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Federal panel to hear final Northern Gateway pitches

Enbridge is the first to presenter for the pipeline from Alberta to BC’s coast.


June 17, 2013
by CANADIAN PRESS

TERRACE, BC — The proponent and opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline have begun making final pitches to a federal review panel starting June 17, at the last stage of public hearings before the panel issues its decision later this year.

Calgary-based Enbridge is slated to be the first to officially present its final argument for its project at the hearings, but opponents made their case at a public rally June 16 in Terrace, BC, whose council passed a resolution last year opposing the project.

The project proposed by Enbridge involves two 1,200-kilometre pipelines linking Bruderheim, just outside of Edmonton, to the marine terminal in Kitimat. One pipe would carry diluted bitumen, the heavy, molasses-like oil produced in the oil sands, and the other would carry natural gas condensate, used to dilute bitumen, from Kitimat east to Alberta.

Coastal First Nations left the review panel process earlier this year, saying they were out of patience and faith that the federal government was listening.

The province of British Columbia were also slated to address the panel after announcing late last month that it believes the project cannot go ahead as proposed.

In a written argument filed with the federal panel, lawyers for the BC government said that Northern Gateway should not be approved.

“’Trust me’ is not good enough in this case,” said the submission.

But the submission left the door open, and at a much-watched meeting with her Alberta counterpart on Friday, BC Premier Christy Clark invited project supporters to walk through.

“Between the closing arguments (at the National Energy Board’s joint-review panel) and the decision, there are a few more months,” Clark said. “So we’ll see what happens with that.”

The province has laid out five conditions that must be met to win its support, including undefined “world-class” oil spill response plans and a “fair share” of the economic benefits.

Sterritt urged the crowd to applaud BC’s Liberal government for opposing the project, but Robin Austin, a local New Democrat member of the legislature, said the opponents of the project cannot count on the province.

“If you look at the wording of the five conditions there’s lots of wiggle room there,” he said. “It’s not a definitive ‘No’ from Christy Clark and we want a definitive `No.”’

The project would free land-locked Alberta to expand its customer base beyond the US, a development worth billions of dollars in additional revenues, and Northern Gateway laid out its reasons for approval in a written submission filed last month.

“The evidence provided by Northern Gateway demonstrated the enormous economic benefits that the project would deliver to Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, and aboriginal peoples,” it said.

“The project is urgently needed and meets all requirements for approval under the (National Energy Board) act. It is in the public interest.”

While critics of the project have dominated public hearings so far, the company will have some prominent allies in the final leg of the process, with the Alberta government, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers slated to present arguments in favour of the proposal, along with industry players such as Nexen and Cenovus.

Final arguments are scheduled over the next two weeks, and the panel’s report to the federal government is due by the end of the year.

© 2013 The Canadian Press