John Cotter of Canadian Press reports that at least 4,000 people have signed up to speak at the Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings, even though the panel staff has not yet finished counting the applications for oral arguments.
More than 4,000 people and groups have registered to speak at hearings into a proposed pipeline that would ship crude from Alberta’s oil sands to fill supertankers on the British Columbia coast.
Opponents of the $5.5-billion Enbridge Inc. Northern Gateway pipeline hope the surge of public interest will pressure Ottawa not to approve the project.
Cotter also says Enbridge is becoming worried about the delays and is now saying activists are trying to manipulate the hearings:
Calgary-based Enbridge says it welcomes public input, but is concerned the process could bog down.
Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway said the project is already eight months to a year behind. If approved, it’s possible the startup date for the pipeline could be pushed beyond 2017.
He said Enbridge is also concerned people could be manipulated by groups that hope to turn Northern Gateway into an anti-oils ands battleground similar to the Keystone XL pipeline debate in the United States.
“There is no question that the groups internationally who are opposed to the development of oil sands oil are focused on both projects,” Mr. Stanway said.
In a news release, the group Forest Ethics says the 4,000 oral witnesses will far surpass the 558 that spoke before the Mackenzie Valley pipeline hearings in the 1970s.
The news release quotes Jolan Bailey, Canadian Outreach Coordinator with ForestEthics as saying: “It’s clear this project has struck a very public nerve,”. “Enbridge’s plan to punch a pipeline through to the West Coast has hit a wall of opposition that stretches from Kitimat to Kalamazoo.”
ForestEthics says at least three residents from Michigan plan to speak about the damage wrought by Enbridge’s spill into the Kalamazoo River in July of 2010.