The Final Hearings of the Joint Review Panel assessment of Northern Gateway shift from Edmonton to Prince George in this critical phase of the regulatory review of the proposed project.
The Final Hearings – or questioning phase of the review – in Prince George (Oct. 9 - Nov. 9) will focus on issues of safety, construction and routing of the pipeline, accident prevention, emergency preparedness, and environmental protection measures among others.
It is a crucial stage in the process as it allows registered intervenors and Northern Gateway panel experts to be cross-examined on the project, under oath, and in public to fully investigate issues related to a project.
All of Northern Gateway’s plans and assertions – whether environmental, social or economic – are being fully tested. This thorough and public review process is being directed by the Joint Review Panel (JRP) under the auspices of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
“I look forward to the final hearings taking place in my hometown,” said Janet Holder, Enbridge Executive Vice President Western Access, who hails from Prince George. “As the project proponent, we intend to demonstrate to British Columbians and to all Canadians through the examination of the facts and science upon which this project application is based that there is a path forward that provides for prosperity while protecting the environment. The JRP is the appropriate forum for this confidence-building exercise with Canadians.”
Through consultation and the ongoing JRP process, Northern Gateway heard from concerned stakeholders along the proposed route. From January to August of this year, members of the public and interested groups presented evidence and statements to the JRP outlining their feelings about the Project. We heard strong views from all that we must protect the environment and the way of life of the communities along the pipeline path.
“Northern Gateway shares this view,” said Ms. Holder. “Protecting people and the environment is our top priority, which is why we announced enhancements to make what was already a very safe project even safer.”
In July 2012, Northern Gateway announced additional measures to ensure pipeline safety and integrity on the Project, including: increased pipeline wall thickness; more remote-operated isolation valves; more in-line inspections; and staffing at remotely-located pump stations to heighten monitoring, response and security.
“We’ve been looking forward to our opportunity to provide answers about our design. We’ve worked for many years to propose a route that balances environmental protection with the desires of local communities,” said Raymond Doering, Northern Gateway’s Manager of Engineering and a key member of the Prince George technical panel.
BC’s north has a long history with forestry, mining, hydro, energy pipelines and natural gas exploration. Northern Gateway has devoted much effort to utilizing existing forest service roads, cutlines, cutblocks, and other pre-disturbed lands to minimize environmental impacts.
“We’ve made many changes to the design and route of the proposed pipeline and many of the changes are a direct result of listening to communities and working to address their concerns and interests.” Mr. Doering stated.
Northern Gateway is an energy infrastructure project of national importance that will enable Canada to achieve a strategic imperative – to connect our world class resources to international markets and correct our sole dependence on a single market for that resource.
Currently, oil is Canada’s most valuable export, worth $67 billion last year alone. Virtually all of that trade went to the U.S. – a market where demand is flat and domestic supply is rising exponentially.
This dependence, combined with pipeline bottlenecks in oil distribution hubs in the U.S., has trapped our valuable resource, and forced Canadian energy producers to sell at deep discounts. That has meant billions in lost revenues for producers and governments.
“At points in our nation’s history, we have been faced with monumental infrastructure challenges that were overcome, often amid heated debate, and eventually laid the foundation for benefits and prosperity for generations. We’re at that point again,” said Ms. Holder.
Northern Gateway can deliver significant economic benefits to Canada—a boost to Canada’s GDP of more than $270 billion in the first 30 years, and over $80 billion in additional tax revenues. Hundreds of millions will be spent in the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities of the north during construction. Thousands of jobs will be created.
“The benefits this Project can bring to First Nations, British Columbians, Albertans and all Canadians are significant. But to capture these benefits, Canadians must have confidence that the Project can be built and operated safely, protecting people and the environment,” said Ms. Holder.
Following conclusion of the hearings in Prince George, the hearings will resume in Prince Rupert (Nov. 22 – Dec. 18).