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Four years becomes 34 months

Draft pipeline assessment plan spells out process

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 05/01) - A last-minute streamlining effort has pared the regulatory review process for a Mackenzie Valley pipeline down to 34 months.

NNSL Photo

Draft plan

Stage 1: 6 to 12 months

  • Based on preliminary information from consortium proposing pipeline, draft memorandum of understanding formalizing co-operation of boards and agencies

  • Stage 2: 6 to 12 months

  • Development applications received
  • Finalize MOU establishing a joint review panel (3 to 10 members) and its terms of reference
  • establish funding for participation of non-government organizations in the review

  • Stage 3: 1 year

  • Public hearings for regulatory licences and environmental assessments

    Stage 4:

  • Joint panel writes environmental assessment report
  • Report submitted to responsible federal and territorial ministers and National Energy Board
  • NEB reserves the right to re-open hearings as necessary.
  • Regulators use recommendations of report to develop terms and conditions to be attached to licences

  • The Mackenzie Delta gas producers developing the pipeline proposal say they will decide whether or not to proceed with the project by the end of this year.

    All indications are that they will proceed. A feasibility study of the proposal has been underway during the last year. Six months ago the producers commissioned socio-economic and environmental studies required for a full review.

    The producers are also reportedly about to award a contract for preliminary design engineering work for use in a project description. Environmental reviews begin with the submission of a project description.

    Economic Development Minister Joe Handley said this week that means gas could be flowing down the Mackenzie Valley by 2006 or 2007.

    "We want it done efficiently and thoroughly," said Handley of the assessment.

    The working group of the boards and agencies trying to harmonize the regulatory processes involved in assessing the $3-billion project met in Yellowknife this week.

    According to a source close to the discussion, when the group tallied up the time-lines attached to the four-stage review process on Sunday, it came out to four years.

    Since Sunday, the group has been looking for ways to shorten the process. A draft of the process was released to regional aboriginal groups and the territorial government late last week.

    A communications strategy attached to the draft includes a press release dated Oct. 9 announcing the public release of the plan.

    The release has been delayed as the working group tries to pare the process further before submitting the draft plan to Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Robert Nault.

    Canadian Arctic Resources Committee research director Kevin O'Reilly said the draft plan includes a more independent role for the National Energy Board, "which is not what they were talking about before and will probably take more time."

    One of the regional aboriginal groups through whose territory the pipeline would pass asked Ottawa for more money to allow it to participate meaningfully in the development of the process.

    In a letter delivered last week, Deh Cho First Nations Grand Chief Michael Nadli asked Nault for his "personal assurance" that the streamlined process will not be approved until the DCFN is provided with those resources.

    Deh Cho representatives attended the Sunday and Monday meetings of the boards and agencies as observers.