Gateway JRP denies request from Nathan Cullen to hold hearings in Kitimat

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel today denied a request from Skeena Bulkley Valley MP to reconsider its decision not to hold the questioning round of final hearings in Kitimat. The JRP is still reserving its decision on locations for final arguments.

The panel had previously decided to hold those hearings in Prince Rupert, Prince George and Edmonton.

In its ruling on Cullen’s request, the JRP said:

Your request for the Panel to reconsider its decision on the locations for the questioning phase of the final hearings did not contain any new information that was not considered by the Panel in its original determination. As such, your request is denied. The Panel further notes that no decision has been made with respect to the location for the final hearings for final argument. As indicated in Procedural Direction #8, these locations will be announced at a later date.


Cullen had also asked to be allowed to question government participants in the hearing.  That request was also denied because filed the request after the deadline. Cullen also plans to question Northern Gateway witnesses and so the JRP reminded him that:

In accordance with the Panel’s letter of 25 July 2012, you are reminded that the names of the witnesses or witness panels you intend to question and an estimate of how much time you will need to question each party or witness panel is to be submitted by 3 August 2012.

JRP excludes Kitimat from questioning round, hearings in Prince Rupert, Prince George and Edmonton

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel will bypass Kitimat for the final questioning hearings on the controversial pipeline.

In a ruling issued late on July 4, 2012, the JRP said the questioning hearings will begin on September 4, 2012 in Edmonton followed by hearings in Prince George and Prince Rupert.

The JRP says a more detailed schedule will be issued closer to the start of the final hearings.

It adds, that details on the location for the final hearings for final argument will be announced at a later date.

In its ruling the JRP said:

As noted previously, these locations are centrally located, have adequate facilities and reasonable transportation access. The Panel is of the view that these locations are appropriate as they are relatively close to the proposed Project and are readily accessible by all parties who are actively participating in the Northern Gateway hearing process and their witnesses. Further, these locations will allow for appropriate hearing facilities that are safe, of an adequate size and can logistically and technologically accommodate a hearing with many participants.

The Joint Review panel acknowledged that some “witnesses would be financially and logistically
unable to attend three different hearing locations for questioning in Alberta and British

The JRP says it will “to the best of its ability and to the extent reasonable, accommodate
interested parties’ participation at the final hearings through remote participation.
Standard procedures for the final hearings.”

(i) Parties and members of the public may listen to all of the final hearings live,
through the webcast (available from the Panel’s website).
(ii) Parties may register their appearance on the first day of the final hearings
remotely by telephone, or other technology to the extent feasible such as
videoconference or webex. Details regarding potential audio-visual options will
be provided in advance of the final hearings.
(iii)Parties may ask questions of other party’s witnesses by telephone, or other
technology such as vidoconference or webex to the extent possible. Parties will be
asked to confirm their method of participation, in advance of the final hearings for
(iv) Parties’ witnesses may be presented for questioning by technology such as
videoconference or webex that is capable of capturing audio and visual images of
the witnesses simultaneously.

The JRP says its staff is working to address issues that may arise from remote questioning and video conferences.

Some key questions such as the effects of the pipeline and tanker traffic on marine mammals will be handled by “concurrent panels,” that is groups of expert witnesses sitting together. That is a standard National Energy Board procedure and was used during the NEB hearings on the Kitimat LNG project in June, 2011.

A separate ruling from the Joint Review Panel requires all parties to provide a list of witnesses for questioning hears on or before Friday, July 13, 2012.

This list must include all experts that have submitted reports on the party’s behalf, as well as those individuals that are able to answer questions on the specific evidence filed. Where relevant, it would be helpful if parties would organize their list of witnesses into “witness panels” by topic.

JR Procedural Direction 8 Final Hearings – Questioning  (pdf)

JRP Procedural Matters Final Hearings Witness Panels   (pdf)


Strong support for Joint Review questioning and final hearings in Kitimat, draft report says

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)

Cheryl Brown

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)

Terry Vulcano

Josette Wier

   Panel Commission Draft Final Report Procedural Conference 30 May 2012  (pdf)

BC, Haisla, file objections to JRP bypassing of Kitimat; Enbridge likes venues, avoids the tanker problem

Both the province of British Columbia and the Haisla Nation have filed strong objections with the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel about the panel’s plans to bypass Kitimat for the questioning and final argument phases of its examination of the controversial pipeline project.

At present, the Joint Review Panel plans to hold questioning hearings in Prince Rupert, Prince George and either Calgary or Edmonton and final arguments in Prince Rupert and Calgary/Edmonton.

And if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver wanted to speed up the hearings and therefore approval of the Northern Gateway project, filings from all sides indicate more time is needed than the two months allocated by the JRP.

The JRP secreteriat plan a meeting in Calgary on May 30 to consider the procedures.  The three panel members will not attend.  A large number of intervenors or government participants will be represented in person or take part in a conference call.

The lawyer for the Haisla Nation, Jennifer Griffiths, points out in her filing with the JPR, “Prince Rupert is not a logical location for any of the hearings.”

Updated: The District of Kitimat, which is registered as a “government intervenor” will participate in the conference call.

The law firm representing the Enbridge Northern Gateway, agrees with the JRP preliminary decision to hold the hearings in Prince Rupert, Prince George and Calgary or Edmonton. However, Enbridge’s lawyer Richard Neufeld, of Fraser, Milner, Casgrain, makes it clear that for those hearings they are not involved in the operation of tankers carrying the bitumen they sell to customers.

This includes a marine terminal at Kitimat. Northern Gateway recognizes the interest of the public, government, and First Nations in respect of the potential effects of ships calling on the proposed marine terminal, but it is important to bear in mind that Northern Gateway will not own or operate any marine vessels. No approvals are sought, or required, for such operations, as they are subject only to laws of general application which apply to all shipping into or out of Canadian ports.

The Ecojustice group, also known as the Sustainability Coalition,  an alliance of the Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation and ForestEthicsAdvocacy wants hearings in Vancouver. The Coastal First Nations also want the hearings in Vancouver.

The Wet’suwet’en  want more hearing locations especially in the areas of the proposed route to address those most affected, telling the JRP:

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW) is localized in Smithers, BC, our territory is 22,000 square kilometres and 170 kilometres is proposed to be crossed by NGP prior to crossing the coastal mountain range. The OW requests that hearings be held in Smithers or Burns Lake for full days rather than half days to reduce travel and accommodation costs for intervenors.

In the provincial filing, Christopher Jones, counsel for British Columbia says:

the Province submits that it is essential for a portion of the final hearings to take place in Kitimat. Kitimat is the proposed location of one terminus of the proposed pipeline, and of the proposed marine terminal. As a result, that locality has a particular interest in these proceedings. There are sufficient facilities and transport access to Kitimat to allow the hearings to take place there…..

The letter from Jones goes on to stay that BC believes “the Province would again submit that certain issues should be dealt with at Kitimat” rather than Prince Rupert.

Griffith, of the Vancouver law firm, Donavan and Company, filing on behalf of the Haisla Nation says:

The Haisla Nation questions why no final hearings are proposed for Kitimat. Given the significant new infrastructure associated with the project that is proposed to be located in the Kitimat area, Kitimat is a logical location for hearings. Kitimat is serviced by the Terrace airport, which is only 56 km away. Kitimat also has dock facilities for parties who may be travelling to the hearings by boat. Finally, there is ample accommodation in the Kitimat I Terrace area. Prince Rupert is not a logical location for any of the hearings. The proposed pipeline does not go near Prince Rupert, the terminal is far from Prince Rupert, the tankers would go through Douglas Channel, not past Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert is not accessible to the Haisla Nation by way of a direct flight.

Griffith also says the final arguments should be held either in Kitimat or Vancouver.

The Haisla Nation will have to participate in every aspect of the hearings. Yet the Panel is currently not proposing to hold any of the questioning phase or final hearings in Kitimat. As set out in the comments below, the Haisla Nation is of the view that the questioning and final hearing locations slated for the western terminus of the project should be held in Kitimat, not in Prince Rupert.

Enbridge, on the other hand, through its lawyer, Richard Neufeld, says:

Northern Gateway agrees with the Panel’s observations regarding the need to select hearing venues that are centrally located, have adequate facilities and reasonable transportation access for the large numbers of witnesses and back-up support personal required. Northern Gateway also agrees that Prince Rupert, Prince George and Calgary/Edmonton meet these criteria. Northern Gateway also agrees that if economic issues are to be dealt with in a single venue, it would be appropriate to do so in Calgary or Edmonton. Of the two, Calgary would be a more logical location given its convenience for those participating in that aspect of the proceeding.

Enbridge also has reservations about the process, while it wants the hearings “streamlined,” the company is concerned about the plan to split the hearings into various issues could be “prejudicial” to the project.

Northern Gateway expects that the Panel is considering an issues-based hearing in an effort to streamline the hearing process, and to make the process more accessible to those who want to participate only when specific issues or topics are under discussion. Both objectives are laudable.

However, an issues-based hearing format has the effect of forcing the Applicant to split its case into multiple parts. This is potentially prejudicial to the Applicant – especially if the issues identified for litigation do not correspond to the manner in which the Application has been structured.

The EcoJustice group wants hearings in Vancouver, largely because many of its members are there, with staff lawyer Barry Robinson, saying to the JRP:

The Coalition recommends that the Panel consider adding a fourth hearing location in Vancouver. The Coalition notes that, logistically, many of the witnesses and counsel that would appear in Prince Rupert would travel through Vancouver. If the vast majority of the witnesses and counsel to appear on any given issue will be required to travel from or through Vancouver, the Coalition recommends that the issue be heard in Vancouver to reduce travel costs and related greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the Coalition is sensitive to the needs of local intervenors in the Prince Rupert area and would ask that the Panel use its discretion in allocating topics to be heard in Prince Rupert and Vancouver.

And later:

The Coalition recommends that the Panel consider hearing final argument in Vancouver as a third location. The Coalition is supportive of the Panel providing an option for remote participation.

Coastal First Nations have a similar proposal. Art Sterritt, Executive Director says:

the JRP should consider holding hearings on marine issues in Vancouver with video links to Prince Rupert and Kitimat as a way of reducing the costs to Intervenors (many experts and legal and technical representatives live in the lower mainland) and in recognition that Kitimat is the proposed site of the Marine Terminal and that there are many people in the lower mainland who use the area for recreational, commercial fishing and other uses.

It appears that there will soon be controversy over the time allotted both for questioning and final arguments. The Haisla, other First Nations and Ecojustice and even Northern Gateway appear to want more time for questioning and cross-examination, while, for example, the Canadian Association of Petroluem Producers, the industry representative says it:

is still considering the scope and extent of its participation in questioning during the final hearings. CAPP will work with other intervenors in order to minimize the overall time required for cross­ examination.

It is clear that Enbridge Northern Gateway is planning tough cross-examination of the intervenors and their evidence:

Northern Gateway intends to cross-examine each of the authors of reports prepared for Interveners opposing the Project, and filed as written evidence. In some cases, the evidence filed with the Panel does not identify authorship, which makes it impossible to specify who will be cross-examined. Materials filed by certain interveners also include information collected through means such as access to information requests, which also makes it impossible to identify who might speak to such evidence if it is allowed to remain on the record.

Northern Gateway’s review of the written evidence filed by interveners has identified approximately forty five detailed reports that have been prepared for this proceeding. Reports of a more basic variety, those that provide general information on traditional use matters and reports of marginal relevance need not be subject to extensive cross-examination by Northern Gateway (if at all). Although no final decision has been made, for planning purposes the Panel should allot approximately twenty hearing days for cross-examination by Northern Gateway. Once a decision has been made on hearing venues and format, we will provide a more definitive estimate to Panel counsel and to counsel for the interveners involved. Where Northern Gateway does not consider it necessary to cross-examine a particular author, we will advise others of that so as to avoid unnecessary expense and inconvenience.

The Coastal First Nations are also planning tough cross-examination:

Coastal First Nations intends to cross-examine NGP, Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, DFO, CEAA (as crown consultation coordinator and expert on environmental assessment methodology) and possibly the Government of B.C. These cross­ examinations will focus on risk assessment, spill response, measures to prevent incidents, and reduce risk of spills, consequences of spills, and Aboriginal consultation. Naturally, until the JRP approves the government participants we wish to cross-examine, and NGP identifies the witnesses they will present, it is difficult to determine the amount of time needed for cross-examination. It would likely take several hours of cross-examination for each party.

The Hasila say:

The Haisla Nation does not have any input into the proposed general schedule as set out above, but does question the two-month period provisionally allotted for the questioning phase in accordance with the revised Hearing Order. The Haisla Nation anticipates that the questioning phase will require substantially more than two months.

The Wet’suwet’en also object to the short notice given for the May 30 procedural meeting:

The estab!ishment of this regulatory process is insufficient to afford meaningful consultation to the Wet’suwet’en. We are hard pressed to try and prepare our hereditary leaders and clan speakers in such short notice, especially with a long weekend within the timeframe, some of our leaders and speakers are out on the territories preparing themselves for their summer traditional food gathering, and cultural activities. There is insufficient time given to the Wet’suwet’en for this process.

The Wet’suwet’en say (and this likely applies to other BC First Nations) that hearings as proposed could make it difficult to consult with elders saying “discussions with hereditary leaders and elders must take place, as per our custom…”

All of this comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resoures minister Joe Oliver and many in the right-wing media want the hearings sped up, which means the May 30 meeting may be heated and any decision politically charged.

JRP filings from

Province of British Columbia  (pdf)

Haisla Nation  (pdf)

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines  (pdf)

EcoJustice (Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, ForestEthics Advocacy Sustainability Coalition)  (pdf)

CAPP (pdf)

Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative (pdf)

Office of the Wet’suwet’en  (pdf)

Government of Canada (pdf)

Northern Gateway Joint Review questioning and final argument hearings skip Kitimat, most of the northwest BC pipeline route

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel questioning hearings and final arguments will bypass Kitimat and most of the communities along the proposed pipeline route, according to a letter to all intervenors from the JRP prompted by questions from the Gitxaala Nation.

The Joint Review Panel has not yet issued an official  and final procedural directive concerning the final hearings, and in response to the Gitxaala letter, the JRP secreteriat will convene a conference on May 30, in Calgary to set up that procedure. The three panel members will not be present at the conference.

In the letter to the intervenors, the JRP proposes:

Final hearings for questioning will take place in three locations. The Panel intends to hold these hearings in Prince Rupert, BC, Prince George, BC and either Edmonton or Calgary, AB. These locations are centrally located, have adequate facilities and reasonable transportation access. Would fewer than three locations be appropriate? What are your comments on the locations chosen by the Panel?

As for the final argument hearings, the Joint Review Panel says:

The Panel anticipates allowing parties to present final argument either: (i) orally;
or (ii) in writing. On an exception basis, parties may request permission of the
Panel to allow final argument on a specific topic both in writing and orally.
The Panel anticipates holding hearings for final argument in two locations;
namely Prince Rupert, BC and either Edmonton or Calgary, AB. Mechanisms will
be established to allow parties to participate remotely (i.e. via telephone or other
electronic means). Do you have any input on these locations?

For the questioning period, the Joint Review Panel says it anticipates that it will sit from Monday to Saturday for two week periods, followed by a one week break. Standard sitting hours would be from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Cheryl Brown, representing the Kitimat group Douglas Channel Watch, has already objected to the fact the Joint Review Panel has apparently decided to bypass Kitimat.

The location of the panel should include Kitimat as it is the community
experiencing the highest impact from the project -land and marine. The citizens
of Kitimat need to have the opportunity to hear the proceedings and how it will
potentially impact their future. Accommodations can be provided in Terrace with
bus transportation provided if needed and this is standard practice for other large
events. Air travel into Terrace/Kitimat is reasonable with good transportation to
Kitimat. Rupert has some exposure to the project but to justify that the hearings
take place there due to adequate facilities, that it is central and has reasonable
transportation access is not valid. Rupert is not central for the Northwest and the
issue of getting from the terminal to the city by ferry is hardly reasonable.

The proposed schedule seems adequate. For intervenors with limited financial
resources any length of stay outside their own area can be difficult.

Note that in its letter the JRP asks: “Would fewer than three locations be appropriate?” There is no suggestion that the number of locations be expanded.

This is despite the fact throughout the hearings, Sheila Leggett, the chair has repeatedly told intervenors in each location to hold back their comments until the final hearings. In addition, during the intervenor phase of the hearings, questioning was not permitted, only statements on local or traditional knowledge.

The JRP letter to intervenors goes on to say

The Panel intends to have questioning on oral evidence completed prior to
questioning based on written evidence pertaining to the List of Issues.
Questioning of witness panels will proceed at each location based on issues.
These issues largely mirror the List of Issues set out in the Hearing Order (dated
5 May 2011) and discussed in the Panel Session Results and Decision (dated
19 January 2011). The Panel intends to address each issue listed below in
relation to the entire Project at only one location. The location for each issue is
as follows:

Prince Rupert

(a) Potential Impacts of the Proposed Project on Aboriginal Interests
(socio-economic matters; asserted and proven Aboriginal and treaty
(b) Environmental Effects
(c) Socioeconomic Effects
(d) Consultation (with the public and Aboriginal groups)
(e) Safety, Accident Prevention and Response (related to the marine
terminal and marine transportation)

Prince George

(a) Potential Impacts of the Proposed Project on Landowners and Land
Use (pipeline crossings; depth of cover; impacts on agricultural soils)
(b) Routing (general route of the pipeline and route selection criteria).
General location of the facilities and siting of a marine terminal.
(c) Design, Construction and Operation
(d) Follow up and monitoring
(e) Safety, Accident Prevention and Response (related to the pipeline)

Edmonton or Calgary

(a) Need for the Proposed Project (supply and markets; commercial
support; economic feasibility)
(b) Potential Impacts of the Proposed Project on commercial interests
(c) Financial and Tolling Matters (tolling structure and methodology;
proposed financing; financial responsibility of the applicant)

The letter asks, “Do you have any additional issues for each hearing location or any input on the general format identified?”

It also asks intervenors questions like: “What parties’ witnesses do you anticipate questioning during the final hearings? What issues do you anticipate you will ask questions about? How much time do you anticipate you will require for questioning for each issue?

The panel says it is considering a process for expert witnesses which would entail having expert witnesses for parties with conflicting opinions seated together in a single witness panel and questioned at the same time, mainly about issues that “are highly technical in nature” so the panel can “assess complex expert evidence, understand differences, and focus on certain technical issues in an efficient manner.”

The letter goes on to say that the panel intends to permit “questioning of witnesses by telephone and is exploring other remote means.”

However, the letter to the Joint Review Panel from Cheryl Brown of Douglas Channel Watch clearly shows the kind of problems faced by those “directly affected” by the pipeline if they live in rural northwestern British Columbia.

Technology is limited as I am rural and do not have high speed internet. Could
the use of local video conferencing facilities be utilized. The panel needs to consider that there are many intervenors that are independent in the process and do not have resources to participate that others may have. It bears on the JRP
to ensure there is the ability of all to participate in the process in a reasonably fair and equitable way and the panel needs to consider other ways to configure the hearings

Telephone questioning during the NEB KMLNG (Kitimat LNG) hearings in Kitimat in June was awkward to say the least, and often plagued by technical problems in getting lines up and staying connected. Telephone questioning also meant that the energy industry lawyers actually in the hearing room at Riverlodge had a distinct advantage over the remote questioners.

The letter of the Joint Review Panel by Cheryl Brown of Douglas Channel Watch also outlines the issues the environmental group will be trying to bring before the panel:

Cheryl Brown
Cheryl Brown of Douglas Channel Watch speaks to District of Kitimat Council on May 7, 2012 (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Here are issues that need to be addressed within the communities highly affected
i.e. Kitimat
•Routing: through the tunnel and the difficult terrain of the Kitimat River,
•Siting of the marine terminal,
•Safety, accident prevention response related to the terminal and marine
transportation, environmental effects on the estuary, Douglas Channel
and marine route.
•Socioeconomic and environmental effects are different across the entire
pipeline. To address then in one place does not allow for adequate
participation by intervenors from other areas to address the areas that are
of concern. A significant number of intervenors are without funding and
are privately involved in the process. The hearings have to acknowledge
•Aboriginal interests are unique to different areas and the costs for travel to
one place would be a burden.
•Consultation with the public needs to be represented in more locations.
The public that has been involved as intervenors do not have resources to
travel. The panel needs to consider this.

Brown goes on to say that the use of expert panels “sounds interesting” but she adds she is “not sure how one would interact with the panel. More details are required.”

The Joint Review Panel’s proposed schedule, which basically eliminates effective participation by those most affected by the pipeline, raises a key question at the national political level. Is the fact the panel is skipping most of the communities involved a return to the National Energy Board tradition that it is nothing more than a private club for Calgary energy lawyers or is it a result of pressure from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to speed things up?

The controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway twin pipelines, if approved, will transport bitumen from Alberta to the port of Kitimat and condensate from Kitimat to Alberta.  Although there is significant opposition to the pipeline in British Columbia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made clear the pipeline is a national priority.  Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has repeatedly condemned people who oppose the pipeline as “radicals.”

Update:  District of  Kitimat, Haisla Nation to question JRP schedules bypassing Kitimat

In separate e-mails to Northwest Coast Energy News, Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan and Haisla Nation Chief Counselor Ellis Ross both say they will be file objections with the Joint Review Panel questioning the JRP’s position in bypassing Kitimat in both the questioning round and final arguments.


JRP Procedural Direction No 7  (pdf)

JRP letter to all parties Procedural Conference on Final Hearings  (pdf)

Letter to JRP from Cheryl Brown of Douglas Channel Watch  (pdf)