Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

NNSL Photo/graphic

Meet the National Energy Board hearing panel on the Mackenzie Gas Project, from left: Gaetan Caron, Kenneth Vollman and David Hamilton, in Inuvik on Monday for a pre-hearing planning conference. - Jason Unrau/NNSL photo

Pipeline hearings come to Inuvik

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 09/05) - Pipeline proponents and intervenors gathered in Inuvik Monday to kick off a series of meetings to plan how hearings on the Mackenzie Gas Project will go.

The National Energy Board (NEB) panel on the Mackenzie Gas Project met in Ingamo Hall to go over a tentative hearing schedule for the $7 billion project.

"We won't be discussing matters related to the project," said NEB panel member and chairman Kenneth Vollman before the conference. "We're here to gather the public's views on the hearing process itself."

Vollman is joined by Gaetan Caron, NEB vice-chairman, and David Hamilton, NEB board member, who together will, "make an independent decision on if the pipeline should be built."

That report will be submitted to federal cabinet for approval, and will consider the Joint Review Panel's recommendation on the project, which will be based on potential social, economic and environmental impacts.

Established in 1959 and reporting to Parliament through the federal Minister of Natural Resources, the NEB is charged with regulating the construction and operation of pipelines, powerlines and aspects of international trade in natural gas, oil and electricity. To date, the NEB is responsible for 45,000 km of pipeline across Canada.

Beginning at the end of next January and continuing through to October 2006, the board will hear evidence from proponents and intervenors on engineering, safety and economic aspects related to the pipeline's construction, operation and environmental restoration/reclamation.

If the project goes ahead, the NEB is also responsible for monitoring the pipeline.

The panel expects to complete its report to cabinet by "mid-2007." If approved by cabinet, construction could begin on the 1,300 km pipeline by the end of that year.

With the topics the NEB will hear evidence on to be spread among 11 NWT communities as well as Calgary and High Level, Alberta, there was some concern expressed at the meeting that regional residents would not get a complete picture of the project.

"A process should be developed that will allow for lots of local interest," said Richard Neufeld, lawyer representing the Mackenzie Explorers Group, a consortium of petroleum companies active in the region outside of the project proponents - Imperial, Shell and ConocoPhillips.

"Interest in all the topics for the entire process in this region is quite strong."

This opinion was reiterated by Chevron legal representation as well as Albert Elias who represented the Inuvialuit Land Administration Committee.

"Route and site selection is really important for people (here) to discuss and there is some concern," said Elias.

Because the three gas fields - Taglu, Niglintgak and Parsons Lake - and gathering system is to be located in this region, Inuvik and the surrounding communities are expected to be most impacted if the project goes ahead.

In the preliminary schedule for the NEB Hearing on the pipeline, "route and site selection" is not listed as a topic to be heard in either Tuktoyaktuk or Inuvik sessions.