Northern Gateway opening statement to Joint Review Panel

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Aug 31, 2012

The following opening statement was filed with the Joint Review Panel on August 30, 2012.

I. Introduction

The Northern Gateway Pipeline Project has been under active development and discussion since 2002. It is based on a simple but powerful vision and one in which we take great pride: to connect growing supplies of Canadian energy production to new and growing markets in Northeast Asia, and elsewhere.

As has been demonstrated throughout the course of Canadian history, the proposed development of new transportation infrastructure can attract substantial public interest and controversy. Canada has witnessed this phenomenon as far back as 1871 when the Canadian Pacific Railway was constructed in return for British Columbia agreeing to enter Confederation. Similarly, national projects such as the St. Lawrence Seaway and the TransCanada Pipeline have all attracted great attention and debate, but when constructed, laid the foundation for significant benefits for generations of Canadians.

Our Project is no different. Since January of this year, the Joint Review Panel has travelled throughout British Columbia and into Alberta to hear the views of Canadians in both provinces regarding development of the Project, and to hear oral evidence from Aboriginal Canadians regarding their rights and interests and how our Project might affect them. The majority of those who have appeared before the Panel consist of people who have concerns regarding oil sands development and the Project and its potential effects on their interests, and who would argue that the Project should be refused. Throughout that process, Northern Gateway has had representatives in attendance and reviewed the transcripts produced. We have listened carefully. We have taken note of the nature and extent of public concerns that have been expressed, particularly in British Columbia, and especially in coastal regions.

Starting today, Northern Gateway will be able to lend its voice to this proceeding. Starting today, we will present witnesses to provide answers directly to the Panel and to intervenors who wish to question us as to the content of our application materials and written Information Responses. And starting today we will, through our witness panels, do our best to identify to the Joint Review Panel a path forward that will allow Canada to enjoy tremendous economic benefits while at the same time squarely addressing the concerns and reservations that have been expressed during this hearing.

There is a path forward that will, in the end result, provide a significantly improved quality of life for all Canadians, including Aboriginal Canadians, while protecting the environment. That path involves examining the facts and science upon which the Application is supported. It involves assessing, in the same objective fashion, and according to the same standards, the information or evidence that has been presented by those who are opposed to approval of our Project. And it culminates in approving the Project under a framework of conditions that will promote reconciliation over division, and fact over rhetoric. A framework that will embrace consultation and conversation as an enduring component of our Project’s construction and operation.

Northern Gateway firmly believes that if an appropriate approval framework is set in place, this Project can serve as a model for:

  • how Canadians can work together to resolve important issues and for Canada to become a world leader in sustainable resource development;
  • how British Columbians and Albertans can work together to achieve their common goals and objectives; and
  • how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians can work together to achieve common objectives, as well as distinct objectives, that may be individually important to each.

Similarly, we believe that there is and will continue to be a role that can be played by conservation organizations who have expressed an interest in this Project. The proposal that has been placed before the Panel has a number of post-approval environmental research, monitoring, and management initiatives that could be leading edge and create benefits not just for this Project and the species it potentially affects, but for other industrial projects operating within the area traversed by the pipeline and marine transportation routes. For groups with an interest in local and regional environmental protection—as opposed to those whose primary interest is to delay or impede oil sands development—we believe that there are real opportunities to work together. We look forward to doing so.

II. Panel Configuration

With that background, let me comment on how Northern Gateway’s witness panels have been structured and the role that they will play in presenting the facts supporting our application throughout the hearing process.

In Edmonton, we are presenting a panel of witnesses consisting of representatives of Northern Gateway and economic experts from across Canada to speak to the economic benefits of our Project, as well as tolls and tariffs. These benefits will accrue to all Canadians.

At Prince George, Northern Gateway will present three witness panels. They will answer questions as to how the pipeline component of our Project will be designed and constructed. They will address environmental and socio-economic effects of the Project, and how the pipeline will be operated. They will also address spill preparedness, response and effects of accidents and malfunctions. 

We have heard how concerned Canadians are regarding the potential for spills. These concerns have been deepened by Enbridge’s own spill at Marshall, Michigan in 2010. Canadians have asked why and how that event happened, how Enbridge responded to it, and how we can be satisfied that a similar event won’t happen in Canada. Northern Gateway understands the importance of those questions, and will answer them as this hearing proceeds. We accept that we must take all practicable measures to make sure that there will not be a repeat of the Marshall event on the Northern Gateway Pipeline system. We will address those measures including the substantial additional investment proposed in pipeline safety to protect major tributaries to the Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat rivers in addition to other important natural resources along the corridor.

When the hearing moves to Prince Rupert, Northern Gateway will seat a series of witness panels to speak to marine aspects of the Project. These will include panels that will answer questions regarding the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of shipping operations, and marine emergency preparedness and spill response, as well as the effects of potential marine spills from ships calling on our Project’s facilities at Kitimat. Among other topics, these panels will answer questions on how Northern Gateway will do its part to ensure that there is world class emergency preparedness and response capability in place for the Pacific North Coast, and how detailed operational emergency response planning will be undertaken prior to commencement of operations. We will also answer questions regarding the effects of oil spills on marine environments, and the recovery of those environments. 

At Prince Rupert, we will also present a witness panel to speak to Aboriginal Engagement and Public Consultation matters, as discussed in Volumes 4 and 5 of our Application. The witnesses will answer questions as to how Northern Gateway has interacted with communities along the pipeline route, and beyond. They will also respond to questions regarding how that information was, or will be used in the environmental assessment and Project planning. Northern Gateway acknowledges and respects the positions taken by First Nations, and in particular those in the coastal areas, regarding the risks posed by marine transportation and pipeline operations. We look forward to answering questions as to how those risks can be mitigated. Should the Project be approved, we also look forward to renewed discussion as to how economic benefits can be obtained by coastal First Nations as well as Aboriginal groups along the pipeline corridor, many of whom have agreed to become owners in our Project.

The central feature of the public consultation program is a system of community advisory boards, but it also included many, many other forms of outreach. While the program did not resolve public concerns in respect of all areas of our Project, it did provide a full opportunity for the public to learn about our Project, and to provide their views and opinions to us, and through us to the Joint Review Panel. 

At Prince Rupert, we will also seat a panel of experts from around the world to deal with marine shipping and navigation. They will speak to questions regarding the multitude of measures that will be taken to ensure safe, reliable and environmentally responsible marine transportation on the Pacific North Coast. Canadian ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts already safely handle over 2 million barrels per day of petroleum and petroleum products that are either imported to or exported from Canada. There is, in our view, no reason why that excellent record of safety cannot continue. 

In conclusion, Northern Gateway has presented to the Panel an Application for approval of a Project that is clearly in the Canadian national interest. It is also a Project that has attracted a tremendous amount of public attention. 

We believe that at the end of the proceeding you will conclude that the concerns expressed to you by Canadians to date, and particularly by those living in British Columbia, can be addressed in a reasonable and responsible way. We believe that our Project presents a tremendous opportunity for our country. What is required is an approval that will allow development of the Project while facilitating an ongoing and continuous process for addressing remaining concerns as the Project proceeds. In answering questions that are posed to them, Northern Gateway’s witness panels will focus on identifying a constructive path forward, and one that will benefit all of Canada.

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