As Joint Review deadline looms, more complaints about lack of information for the public

Energy Environment

568-dcww.jpgEnvironmental groups are saying that the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel and Enbridge haven’t given the public enough notice that the Thursday is the deadline for registration to participate in the hearings, which begin in January.

In Smithers, Pat Moss, with the Friends of the Wild Salmon says neither the
National Energy Board, or Enbridge had done much to let people know they
need to register this far in advance.

In Kitimat, Douglas Channel Watch distributed a leaflet door to door warning about the pending deadline.

Those who wish to make oral statements have until October 6 to apply to make an oral presentation to the Joint Review Panel.  Applications can be made on the JRP website:

While the hearings are scheduled to begin on January 10, 2012,  locations are still uncertain.  The JRP website says

Have you made a decision on specific hearing locations?
No. Based on the comments received, the Panel intends to conduct oral hearings in locations close to the pipeline and marine components of the project. The list of oral hearing locations will be announced at a later date.

Moss says this lack of firm dates and locations for those hearings is likely a hindrance to some people who wish to participate, since they cannot know this far in advance where they will be when the hearings come to their area, “We’re very concerned that there
will be a lot of people who will only realize that the hearings are
being held much later, after the National Energy Board announces the
locations and dates for the hearings, and by then it’s long after the
deadline,” Moss says. 

The environmental groups say the Joint Review Panel should have had a more aggressive campaign in newspapers, online and in the broadcast media to make people in northern BC aware of the looming deadline.

International backing for Northern Gateway pipeline grows: new Chinese investment, more Joint Review intervenors

Energy Northern Gateway Links

The Globe and Mail and Reuters are reporting that Enbridge has more Chinese support for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project. One large Chinese group, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), is already backing Enbridge’s efforts to build the Northern Gateway.

In Enbridge’s push to the Pacific wins support from China .

the Globe’s Nathan Vanderklippe says:

Sources have now told The Globe and Mail that the list of funders also includes MEG Energy Corp., which is partly owned by CNOOC Ltd., another Chinese state-owned energy company. Each funder gains the right to discounted shipping rates and an option to buy an equity stake at a later date…MEG spokesman Brad Bellows said the company is “not commenting on speculation.” But, he added, MEG is “interested in expanded market access, absolutely.”

On its website, MEG describes itself as “part of the next generation of oil sands development. We are an Alberta-based company that uses Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) technology to recover drillable (in situ) oil from the oil sands.”

Reuters reports

Enbridge declined to disclose any of the Northern Gateway partners. However, Gina Jordan, spokeswoman for the pipeline company, said they include a mix of oil sands producers and Asian refiners.

Several Chinese companies have invested in the oil sands over the past decade to tap what is currently ranked as the world’s third-largest crude deposit as a way to help fuel their booming economy at home.

Last week, Enbridge said it and would-be shippers had agreed on terms for moving oil on Northern Gateway… before regulatory hearings scheduled to start in January.

The Globe and Mail is also reporting that a growing list of international companies are filing as intervenors for the Joint Review Panel hearings slated for January.

Nearly two dozen companies have asked to be “intervenors” … including small Canadian companies, major multinationals like Exxon Mobil Corp. and foreign companies like South Korean conglomerate Daewoo International.

Companies typically intervene when they want to closely follow a project, are interested in using it – by sending crude through Gateway, for example – or have a financial interest in it.

[T]he project holds the promise of dramatically altering Canada’s energy geography, providing for the first time access to a major new – and growing – export market. That has made it an increasing object of global interest.

South Korean trading and construction firm Daewoo International, for example, is hopeful it can provide steel or engineering to the Gateway pipeline. That’s just one part of its Canadian strategy.

Enbridge to improve risk assessment on proposed Northern Gateway pipeline

Vancouver Sun 

Enbridge to improve risk assessment on proposed Northern Gateway pipeline 


Enbridge acknowledged Thursday it needs to improve its risk assessment of potential accidents along the route of a controversial proposed pipeline that would deliver crude oil to the west coast of British Columbia. 

A company spokesman made the comments in response to a new analysis to be submitted Friday to a government review panel that raises questions about potential impacts of the Northern Gateway project.

“There are major sources of uncertainty that are not adequately acknowledged and/or incorporated into the analysis,” said the review, prepared by Stella Swanson, a Calgarybased aquatic biologist.

The review analyzed the company’s public submissions to the government panel that is assessing the environmental impacts of the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project.

Here’s how the Enbridge hearings will proceed


Staff of the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel explain the hearing process to residents of Kitimat at Riverlodge Recreation Centre, June 16, 2011.  (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

It will take more than year for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel to complete hearings and taking evidence before it even begins to consider a decision whether or not to approve the controversial pipeline proposal. 

Even then, the worries of the residents of northwest of British Columbia will be only one factor in the panel’s decision. 
The Joint Review panel information town hall reached Kitimat on the afternoon of Thursday, June 16. One of the information sheets handed out at the town hall explained the Joint Review Panel this way: 
 In deciding if the Project is in the public interest, the Panel will consider whether Canadians would be better or worse off if the Project was approved. The public interest includes all Canadians and refers to a balance of economic, environmental and social considerations that change as society’s values and preferences evolve over time. 
(Emphasis in original)
 Here is a summary of how the process will work: 
This summer, those who wish to formally participate in the hearing process must register with the panel.
 For those who wish full intervenor status, the deadline to apply is July 14, 2011.
For those who wish to make oral statements in the community round of hearings, the deadline to apply is October 6, 2011. 
Those formal intervenors who wish to request information from Northern Gateway have two deadlines. August 25, 2011 is the deadline for the first round, after which Northern Gateway must respond by October 6. The intervenors then can ask Northern Gateway a second set of questions, with a deadline of November 3, 2011. Northern Gateway must respond by November 24, 2011. 
The deadline for intervenors to file written evidence with the panel is December 22, 2011.
Community hearings
 On January 10, 2012, the Joint Panel will begin the “community hearings” phase where anyone who met the registration deadline, either as an intervenor or a community participant, can make a presentation to the panel. 
 These community hearings will be held across northern BC and Alberta, along the route of the pipeline and down the coast, with, sources say, a significant session slated for Kitimat.
The community hearings are expected to take several weeks.
 Those who made oral comments to the panel then have until March 13, 2012 to file follow up letters. 
Final hearings
 The community hearings are then followed by another round of filing by the intervenors and government participants.
 On June 16, 2012 the Joint Review Panel will then open the more formal “final hearings” at a location to be determined. 
 Around the same time, the Joint Review Panel must prepare an environmental assessment report that will be submitted to the Minister of the Environment. 
Again, according to the handout material, there is a caveat in the panel’s mandate 
 The significance of any negative environmental and socio-economic effect is only determined after considering the actions that are proposed to prevent or reduce the effects.  (Emphasis in the original)
 In other words, as those who have attended Enbridge’s briefing sessions know, the company has outlined a whole series of safety measures, for example, adding navigation aides to Douglas Channel and parts of the coast.
If the environmental movement wishes to challenge the voluminous reports, likely costing millions of dollars that Enbridge has already filed as part of its application to the Joint Review Panel,  the environmental concerns will have to be backed up with solid and expensive expert evidence.
 Once the Minister of the Environment has the environmental assessment, the government then responds: 
The government response will set out whether the Government of Canada agrees or disagrees with the conclusions and recommendations made the Panel by the panel regarding the potential environmental and socio-economic affects of the Project. The Governor-in-Council [ the federal cabinet] must approve the government response. This approved response will be made available to the public.
The decision
 After it hears the government response on the environment, the panel makes its decision,  whether or not the project can proceed. 
The Panel will issue its Reason for Decision which will include a decision whether or not the Project is in the Canadian public interest.

If the Panel decides the Project can proceed, its Reasons for Decision will include conditions that Northern Gateway must meet before, during and after the construction of the Project.

If the Panel decides that the Project should proceed, the Panel will send its decision to the Governor in Council who can either accept or reject the decision but cannot modify it.

The Governor in Council means the federal cabinet, so the final decision will rest with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


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Joint Review hearings on Enbridge Northern Gateway set for Kitimat in mid-January: sources

The full Joint Review Panel hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline are tentatively set to open in Kitimat in mid-January, 2012.

Knowledgable energy industry insider sources confirmed the likely dates and that the bulk of the hearings will take place in Kitimat to Northwest Coast Energy News Friday after a number of the participants in this week’s  National Energy Board hearings on the KM LNG pipeline made inquiries locally about booking meeting rooms and hotel accommodation for several weeks in a stretch,  beginning in early January, 2012.

The Joint Review website says:  “The Panel will start meeting with participants on 10 January 2012 at locations to be determined.”   During last winter’s  National Energy Board pre-briefing  on this week’s  LNG hearings, NEB staff said the location  to  be determined was always chosen to provide the best opportunity for those involved to speak before the board.  While there were fears in Kitimat that the LNG hearings would be held Alberta, those fears proved to be unfounded.

The Joint Review panel is now traveling across BC offering information sessions to the public.
Updated schedule here. It is highly likely that hearings, like the information sessions, will be held in as many locales as possible, but those will likely be mostly about local issues, with the bulk of the concerns before the Joint Review Panel hearings in Kitimat.
A NEB source cautioned that dates are always tentative due to other hearings, staff commitments (some of the KM LNG NEB staff are also assigned to the Northern Gateway hearings) and, as sometimes happens, the lawyers agreeing on postponements.

According to the official website:

The Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is an independent body, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board. The Panel will assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and review the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act.

The Joint Review panel has much wider powers to hear issues than the NEB did this week in the KM LNG hearings, where the only issue on the table was the partnership’s application for a natural gas export licence.

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