Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Northern Gateway Pipeline notes

Given that I have a little experience around pipeline and megaproject issues, I thought I might provide readers with a bit of a rundown on how the JRP hearing process works and what's involved.

Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a project of the magnitude of Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal triggers a Joint Panel Review. The Joint Panel is made up of individuals representing the federal National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). The process begins with the preparation and submission by the proponent (Enbridge) of a document sometimes called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is a very large item detailing Enbridge's views on the projected environmental and socio-economic impacts and benefits of the project. The Northern Gateway EIS is available here, downloadable in pdf by item.

Once the review is underway, the JRP conducts a series public hearings in communities along the pipeline route. Individuals and groups can apply for intervenor status at the JRP hearings and make presentations regarding social, economic and environmental concerns stemming from the project and the claims made in the EIS. The the hearing process is long, tedious, and does not hear all the voices it should.  But it does produce a much richer sense of what the project might actually look like beyond and in spite of the claims made by the proponent in the EIS. Once the hearings end, the JRP members sequester themselves in a Tibetan monastery, spend some months reviewing the project and hearing information before coming to a decision on whether to recommend to the Minister of the Environment whether to allow the project and what recommendations that might include.  The National Energy Board website hosts the JRP and you can find more documentation and information there. You can find the hearing schedule and broadcasts here.

The Mackenzie Gas Project JRP* (the latest one, not Berger) was very similar to this one, and would make a good reference benchmark for what to expect for those interested. 

While, in my view, there are serious issues of power, privilege, and bias on the part of some intervenors (e.g. governments) and the proponents, as well as recent changes to assessment process, the process is still very open and there is considerable opportunity for the public to raise their concerns directly to the both the proponents and the JRP. Naturally, this little chunk of open-process democracy is a problem for the Cons.

The intervenors are by and large people - and the groups and experts representing them - who will be directly affected by the pipeline. Joe Oliver's appalling comments about foreign agitators and radicals is an attack on both the fairness of the process (unsurprising from a Con) and the people likely to be most affected by the toxic tube.

The Natural Resources Minister might regret his words if his comments definitively sway local opinion (LIKE THIS) against the pipeline and this becomes reflected in the JRP hearings and final recommendations. 

* Mackenzie Gas Project linked website and documents are disappearing online given the end of the project. You may have to hunt around a bit.


liberal supporter said...

Perhaps the "foreign agitators" meme is being used to provide cover for a response similar to the one planned by that other guy who was complaining about "foreign conspiracies" the very same day.

liberal supporter said...

Meanwhile, there is another alternative that would be a lot less risky to the coast.

Perhaps Oliver feels doing the same thing for a little more money but less risk is "destroying Canada's economy". He probably still laments taking lead out of gasoline, given the economic destruction predicted at the time.

Beijing York said...

There are some 100 First Nations who will be impacted by the Project to varying degrees. I read a case study that some FNs have signed on service agreements and that Enbridge might have also offered equity investment opportunities to others (including a paltry sum of $110,000 for capacity building).

At the Enbridge site, they only have one such equity agreement listed and it was only signed recently (December 2011) with the Gitxsan Nation, who had demanded that the feds enforce a fulsome interpretation of their Section 35 constitutional rights (duty to consult).

"After years of consultation, Enbridge Northern Gateway has prepared a host of benefits for eligible Aboriginal communities with an interest in the project, including a 10% equity share.

The Gitxsan share is expected to deliver at least $7 million in net profit to the First Nation. Enbridge will be providing financing at favourable rates, and the partnership will set in place a solid foundation for ongoing dialogue between Gitxsan and Enbridge regarding regional renewable energy projects."


So that is one agreement out of some 100 affected First Nations. They also announced a $1.5 million education and training fund (and that they would seek matching funds from the feds and province). That is peanuts. I designed a program for an annual budget of $1.5 million that would only deliver meaningful training to maybe some 100 participants over a 3 year period.

Anyway, I don't see how the Joint Review Panel can begin with out having settled agreements with all the affected FNs.

Holly Stick said...

Even that Gitxsan agreement is in question, as some members say the people who signed it did not have authority to do so. It may be unresolved at the moment.

Boris said...

Holly, the whole thing is in question. My guess is that it'll likely survive the JRP, but it would remain to be seen if Enbridge actually saw it as still being economically viable. There's been little movement on the Mackenzie project since it got the nod and there's no guarantee NGP will work out as envisioned. On top of that, there's a hell of a lot more resistance from all sorts of quarters to the NGP than the MGP and a great deal of room for direct action. My sense that Gateway is a line in the sand and as Dave points out, the Harperites are helping to blast that line into a crevasse.

sailsmart said...

Aren't they planning on selling CP rail to private interests. It will then go by rail.http://www.progressiverailroading.com/class_is/article/Railroads-aim-to-tap-Bakken-Shale39s-vast-traffic-potential--26587
They've already sabotaged Port of Churchill. Will be going north or to James Bay.
But, as I said before, the environmental reality will hit soon. We have to have true science facts of the destruction to the land and charges laid. Environmental genocide.