MOST RECENT: 27JUN2012
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Northern Gateway is already the biggest environmental, energy, and political issue of 2012 in BC, and perhaps in Canada.
It consists of:
- an 1170 km oil export pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta (in a region referred to as "Upgrader Alley" just northeast of Edmonton) to Kitimat; 914 mm (36 inches) in diameter, capable of transporting 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day.
- an 1170 km "condensate" import pipeline which would run in the opposite direction, from Kitimat to Bruderheim; 508 mm (20 inches) in diameter, designed to carry 193,000 barrels of condensate or "diluent". Condensate is used to dilute bitumen so it will flow in a pipeline.
- a marine terminal in Kitimat with two tanker berths designed for "very large crude carriers" (VLCCs), eleven petroleum tanks and three condensate tanks.
The proponent, Enbridge, claims it will cost $5.5 billion, and could be in operation by 2017.
Enbridge first proposed "Gateway" around 2002, and it has come and gone and come again since then. Pipeline companies pitch ideas all the time. Some stick, some don't. In August 2011, Northern Gateway declared that it has signed long term commitments from shippers which will fully utilize both pipelines - a critical factor in determining the economic viability of the proposed project. The company is now pulling out all stops to get buyin from First Nations, as are the federal, Alberta, and less-visibly, the BC governments. A lot more oily money will grease support for this project than we have seen so far.
In January 2010 a three-member joint review panel was selected, and the joint panel review process is now in motion.
With Northern Gateway, the "joint" in "joint panel review" means it is a process of two federal agencies: the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). The Panel will a) make recommendations to the federal Minister of Environment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and b) decide on whether the pipelines are approved (will be issued a "Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity") under the National Energy Board Act. This is different than the panel which reviewed Taseko's Prosperity Mine, for example, which was not "joint" and was authorized only under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It is also different that the Joint Review Panel which will conduct the environmental assessment of Site C under both federal and provincial legislation. Also important to note: with Northern Gateway, the provinces essentially have no jurisdiction - that all resides with the feds.
There are three ways for the public to "participate" in this joint review process:
a. Intervenor. This requires a big investment of time and resources and is beyond the capacity of most individuals and organizations. Intervenors have to read a ton of documents, ask questions of Enbridge and other intervenors, respond to questions, submit evidence, present its experts for cross-examination and cross-examine other experts, and argue its case in the hearing. Participant funding is available for intervenors for the EA part of the process, but not the NEB part of it. The deadline to apply as an intervenor was 14 Jul 2011. There are a few more than 200 intervenors - lots from industry and the legal, engineering, and other consulting firms it feeds, and from communities, environmental and public interest groups, and individuals. Here's the list:
Intervenors will be allowed to submit evidence to the panel orally - an appropriate and legally valid decision particularly where aboriginals are involved. To facilitate this, the panel visited many communities on its first big a road trip from January through early April 2012 and will continue to hear evidence until August 2012. More about this in a moment.
b. Oral statement. Deadline to register was 6 Oct 2011. There are 4461 people on the list. Oral statements may be made to the panel in its second road trip, from late March to August 11. These will be at locations on the proposed project area. Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna will be visited in Jan & Feb 2013. See Procedural Direction 5, 29 Feb 2012, and the Schedule for Oral Statements. Note the scheduling deadline for each location and the online scheduling tool. See the list of people registered to make a statement (long list, and takes a while).
c. Letter of comment. Deadline to submit your letter is 31 Aug 2012. (Send comments to Secretary to the Joint Review Panel, Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, 444 Seventh Avenue S.W., Calgary, AB T2P 0X8 or use the online form at http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/efile/LetterOfComment.aspx). See the hundreds of letters so far, and lots more to come.
Jan-Mar 2012 - Oral evidence from intervenors
Apr-Aug 2012 - Oral statements from registered participants who live along or near the proposed Project area.
Click here for the oral statement schedule.
Sep-Dec 2012 - Final hearings where the Applicant, Intervenors, Government Participants and the Panel will question those who have presented oral or written evidence.
Jan-Feb 2013 Oral statements from registered participants who do NOT live along or near the proposed Project area (Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna).
Mar-Apr 2013 Final argument from the Applicant, Intervenors and Government Participants.
"Based on this timeline, the Panel expects to issue its report and findings on the proposed project by December 2013."
A detailed schedule was released for the Oral Evidence part of the community hearings, from January to April 2012. Other details will be released later.
These meetings were packed with people - and not just the panel, proponents, intervenors, staff and an appalling number of lawyers. Protocol in these events is quite formal and rigidly maintained, but where First Nations and angry citizens are involved, the panel attempts to manage these forces in such a way that the business gets done, and the entire thing doesn't blow up in a media circus. There have been many present who wanted to ensure that the thing did blow up in a media circus. And the Panel has not been adverse to creating its own questionable circus act - as it did in Bella Bella on April 2 when it cancelled the hearing citing "insecurity."
Community meetings for oral statements began late March, 2012 and will continue to August for locations on in project area. Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna will be visited in Jan-Feb 2013. Information about oral statements, scheduling your oral statement using the online scheduling tool, online statement workshops, and the schedule of community meetings for oral statements, are here.
Hearing Order - a lot of information about the process and the schedule is contained in the "Hearing Order", which was issued in May 2011.
The Hearing Order is a changeable document, and will be modified many times by letters, rulings and procedural directives by the panel, which you can find here:
27Jun2012: the most recent change to the Hearing Order
Project Registry - all the informational, evidentiary and procedural documents pertaining to the Northern Gateway Project
Joint Panel Review Website
Northern Gateway Website
The 2012 Federal Budget contained a multitude of non-budgetary items that affect many aspects of environmental protection in Canada, including removing habitat protection from the Fisheries Act and replacement of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The legislative changes which are a consequence of the Budget are contained in Bill C-38, entitled the Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act which introduced, repealed, or changed some 70 federal laws. It was passed on June 18, 2012.
For the implications on the Joint Panel Review for Northern Gateway, read
BILL C-38 & PIPELINES:
How the budget implementation act will affect the Enbridge Tankers and
Pipelines project and the Kinder Morgan expansion
West Coast Environmental Law, June 2012
For a general assessment of Bill C-38, read
Failing Grade: New Federal Approach to Environmental Assessment Leaves Canadians at Risk and Without a Voice
West Coast Environmental Law, June 2012