The Northern Gateway Joint Review secretariat has issued a draft final report on the May 30 procedural conference concerning the final two phases of the hearings, questioning and final arguments. There was strong support from some participants, including Northern Gateway, for holding portions of the questioning round and final arguments in Kitimat.
The JRP released the draft report on June 6, 2012. The JRP’s original plan for final hearings for questioning will take place in three locations Prince Rupert, BC, Prince George, BC and either Edmonton or Calgary, AB.
The JRP had argued that the three locations were centrally located, have adequate facilities and reasonable transportation access. The most contentious issue was that the plans bypassed Kitimat, which is to be the terminal for the Northern Gateway pipeline and the shipping point to send the diluted bitumen to Asia.
The Joint Review secretariat reports that eight participants wanted a hearing at Kitimat. According to the report, Northern Gateway suggested that the discreet issue of “shipping and navigation” could be moved to Kitimat, due to the local interest. Northern Gateway told the JRP that they would have upwards of 10 to 20 witnesses on the issue of marine environment, as well as related support personnel and asked for a early scheduling decision because their “experts on this issue would be arriving from distant locations and need some timing certainty for their appearance.”
The JRP says the District of Kitimat agreed with Gateway and also suggested issues relating to the marine terminal component of the Project, potential impacts on aboriginal interests, environmental effects of the marine terminal and construction through the coastal mountains.
Cheryl Brown, of Douglas Channel Watch, suggested that issues relating to the “marine terminal site” could be added to this location.
According to the JRP report, the Haisla Nation recommended that hearings be held in the town and not Kitimaat village. Both the Haisla and District of Kitimat emphasized that there would be no logistical issues in terms of accommodation or transportation. “Both groups noted that many hearings have been held in the community in the past, without any problems,” the JRP report notes.
The Haisla noted that if there were no hearings in Kitimat, the nation would prefer that hearings on its issues be held in Vancouver.
The JRP said the majority of parties either took no issue with Prince Rupert or suggested an additional venue be added (such as Kitimat), but five participants questioned why Prince Rupert was considered as it is not directly along the proposed pipeline route.
Those interested in the Alberta hearings appeared to be evenly split over whether the hearings should be in Edmonton or Calgary.
In the conference, as it had in an written submission, Coastal First Nations suggested that Vancouver be added as a final hearing location with videoconferencing of the hearings to both Prince Rupert and Kitimat because of the number of counsel, witnesses and experts coming from, or flying through Vancouver.
The Wet’suwet’en Nation repeated that they would like to have hearings either in Burns Lake or Smithers if more hearing locations were added.
The Gitxaala suggested potentially having Gateway’s cross-examination in one location and cross-examination of intervenors in other locations more convenient to them (i.e. Gitxaala in Prince Rupert). Gateway opposed this idea, stating that if an issues based hearing is going to be adopted, it should be used in its entirety.
All of the participants in the conference agreed that a location be centrally located, have adequate facilities and reasonable transportation access. The JRP notes: “The Haisla in particular noted the centrality of Kitimat and the fact that all three Project components are contained in their territory. The Wet’suwet’en noted that it is important that its hereditary chiefs be able to witness the hearings.”
Most of the participants in the conference supported the use of technology and remote access during the final hearings. The report notes:
The Haisla raised some general concerns about the integrity of the evidence obtained and, for that reason, is of the view that parties who seek to have their witnesses participate remotely should first have to obtain the consent of those that would cross-examine the witness. The Haisla also agreed that procedures need to be implemented to ensure that the information is being provided by witnesses and not prompted by others.
According to the JRP report: “The use of video conferencing facilities was generally seen to be preferable to teleconference capability only. The Wet’suwet’en noted the importance of seeing those providing evidence.”
The Haisla and other parties argued that Aboriginal groups need a clear understanding of the Project before answering questions on potential impacts; questioning Gateway witnesses will assist with that. As such, issues of Aboriginal and treaty rights, the potential impacts of the Project on Aboriginal interests and consultation should be addressed last.
The Government of Canada agreed that it made sense to have issues relating to Aboriginal interests and consultation addressed after other technical issues. Gateway did not believe that these issues needed to be addressed all together at the end of the entire hearing. Rather, issues relating to Aboriginal and treaty rights and interests could be heard at the end of the coastal hearings (either in Prince Rupert or Kitimat). Issues relating to Aboriginal and treaty rights and interests could similarly be dealt with at the end of the Prince George hearings to address these issues for the pipeline component of the Project.
There was also discussion over the location of final arguments.
The JRP suggested that final arguments take place in Prince Rupert and either Edmonton or Calgary with mechanisms to allow parties to participate remotely.
Northern Gateway and ten other participant recommended that final arguments take place in Kitimat instead of Prince Rupert. One party suggested that final argument should take place entirely in one single location (Calgary or Edmonton) while again there was pretty well an even split between the two Alberta cities. Again, the Coastal First Nations suggested that Vancouver be added as a final hearing location with videoconferencing of the hearings to both Prince Rupert and Kitimat.
Northern Gateway Pipelines Inc. (Gateway or applicant)
Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
Alexander First Nation (AFN)
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)
Cenovus Energy Inc (Cenovus);
Nexen Inc (Nexen);
Suncor Energy Marketing Inc (Suncor) and Total E&P Canada Ltd (Total)
Coastal First Nations (CFN)
Communication Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP Union)
Council of the Haida Nation (Haida)
District of Kitimat
East Prairie Metis Settlement (East Prairie)
Horse Lake First Nation (Horse Lake)
Enoch Cree Nation,
Ermineskin Cree Nation,
Samson Cree Nation
Kelly Lake Cree Nation (Cree Nations)
Fort St. James Sustainability Group (FSJ)
Gitxaala Nation (Gitxaala)
Government of Alberta
Government of Canada
Haisla Nation (Haisla)
Living Oceans Society,
Raincoast Conservation Foundation and ForestEthics Advocacy (Coalition)
MEG Energy Corp. (MEG)
Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI)
Office of the Wet’suwet’en (Wet’suwet’en)
Province of British Columbia (BC)
Sherwood Park Fish & Game Association (Sherwood Park F&G Assn)
Swan River First Nation (Swan River)