Panel asks Enbridge to submit more details on proposed pipeline

After putting together an application of thousands of pages for its proposed Northern Gateway project, Enbridge has been told it is going to have to produce a lot more.

  • Jan. 26, 2011 6:00 a.m.

After putting together an application of thousands of pages for its proposed Northern Gateway project, Enbridge has been told it is going to have to produce a lot more.

That decision was handed down last Wednesday by the Joint Review Panel.

In August and September of last year the JRP held public sessions in Whitecourt, Alberta, Prince George and Kitimat.

These were not public hearings but a request from the JRP for direction on the draft list of issues suggested to that date, any additional information people thought Enbridge should be required to file and where the eventual public hearings should be held.

Having heard all the submissions, the JRP said, “We have revised the draft list of issues (and) added sub-issues to provide further clarification.”

And it is a long list.

On the question of whether the project is even needed, the JRP has asked for information on the supply and markets for both oil and condensate to be piped by the project, commercial support for the project and the economic feasibility of the proposed facilities.

Under the heading potential impacts on aboriginal interests, the JRP wants to hear about social economic matters, “asserted and proven aboriginal rights (including aboriginal title)” and treaty rights.

It also wants information on consultation with aboriginals on the project.

But the longest list, predictably, covers potential environmental effects including protected areas, wildlife and wildlife habitat, fish and fish habitat, vegetation, species at risk, marine environment and wetlands.

In a reversal, the JRP also wants to hear about effects of the environment on the project, what it calls geo-hazards – which would likely include avalanches, rock slides and earthquakes.

The other major focus is on safety, accident prevention and response to such an accident.

Which means when it comes to spills – euphemistically referred to by the JRP as “hydrocarbon releases” – the panel wants more on the likelihood of “failures, accidents and malfunctions”, how much might be released in the event of a spill and what the consequences of a spill might be including the geographic extent of it.

And what safety measures will be in place “to protect people, communities and the environment”.

Details on emergency preparedness and what compensation is available in the event of a spill is also sought.

Despite all the new information being asked for, it is still not enough, said senior energy campaigner for Forest Ethics Nikki Skuce.

“They … decided not to expand the scope of reference to include the upstream impacts of the oil sands, so they’re not going to be looking at the impacts of what’s actually going to be going into this pipeline,” she said.

From Forest Ethics’ perspective she said they are disappointed with what is additionally being asked of the company, but are happy that additional information in general is being asked of the company whose application, from their perspective, is incomplete.

“If you’re going to be facilitating something that expands the tar sands by over 30 per cent, that’s a big impact … and that should be looked at in the application.”

She added, “We hope that we can stop this project, either through the assessment process or by other means.”

With files from

Cameron Orr