Bob Weber, Winnipeg Free Press, May 18, 2010
Environmentalists are angry that Ottawa and the Northwest Territories have rejected almost all the advice in a lengthy and expensive report on the proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.
The Sierra Club says the decision from the two governments to accept only 10 out of 176 recommendations is an insult to those who worked on the report.
“Years of research, public hearings, studies and community engagement are being thrown in the wind,” Sheila Muxlow, director of the Sierra Club's Prairie chapter, said in a release Tuesday. “This is an insult to the effort and expertise that went into the Joint Review Panel over the past five years."
The panel, which considered the environmental and social impacts of the proposed $16-billion pipeline, held hearings in tiny communities up and down the Mackenzie River Valley, as well as in cities including Yellowknife and Edmonton. It delivered its long-awaited report earlier this year.
That report made 115 recommendations to Ottawa and the N.W.T., 28 of which have been rejected out-of-hand in their interim response, mostly because they concern matters which the governments say the panel was not asked to consider.
Most of the recommendations that were accepted concern environmental mitigation and monitoring of cumulative impacts. Others involve habitat protection and land-use planning.
The governments agreed with the intent of 77 of the recommendations, but won't adopt them without changes.
They say some of them would restrict the ability of regulators to consider future projects, while others would be too restrictive on development. One such recommendation is for another approval process if project proponents want to fill the pipeline to capacity.
Other suggestions would require governments to spend money now even though there's no certainty the project will proceed.
"In light of the significant delays that have recently been announced by the proponents ... the government of Canada is of the view that it is premature to commit funds to implement these recommendations," says the federal response.
The two governments didn't respond to 60 of the recommendations that were directed to the National Energy Board and one directed to the Alberta government.
The initial response will be discussed by area aboriginal groups and eventually go to the energy board, which is expected to make a final recommendation to the federal cabinet by the fall.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton