Representatives with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency were in town last week, reviewing the ways members of the public can be involved with the Joint Review Panel process on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
They wanted to make it easy for people to participate, Communications Manager with the CEAA Annie Roy said, which is why there are four methods available for people along the proposed pipeline route from Alberta to Kitimat, as well as those affected by the marine operations.
“We are trying to make it easy for the public,” Roy said.
The four options for public participation are writing a letter of comment, making an oral statement, becoming an intervenor, or becoming a government participant.
The method any person or organization would choose would depend on how involved they want to be, Roy said.
Written statements, known as a letter of comment, are accepted through March 13, 2012 and provide the opportunity to present one’s knowledge, views or concerns of the project.
An oral statement allows one to do so in person during a community meeting scheduled in January 2012. In giving an oral statement one can reference to notes, and the panel, the applicant, intervenors and government participants may ask a question of the orator to clarify the statement.
Intervenors are more in-depth, who remain constantly updated on the goings on and who may submit written and oral evidence as well as submit an information request to any party, to which a response must be provided. Intervenors can be questioned on evidence given.
Government participants are similar to an intervenor, but are more limited when they send out an information request in that, unless consent is given by the panel, they can only ask for clarification from the applicant (Northern Gateway). Government parties can be questioned on evidence given only if the panel allows it, and just because one is a member of a government party doesn’t preclude them from registering as an intervenor.
Enbridge Northern Gateway will be registered as an intervenor, Roy said, who will be able to question other parties and/or ask for clarification as well.
Public participation, no matter what means they choose, is key in the review process, Roy said.
Information gathered by this process and this process only will be evaluated by the three person National Energy Board panel to determine their recommendations whether the Northern Gateway Project will move forward or not and if so, what conditions it must meet.
“The panel will consider everything that is submitted to them, the concerns, the arguments, the evidence,” Roy said. “So it’s really important that people present that to the panel and speak to the panel about their concerns.”
The three-person panel is acting under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and under the National Energy Board Act. Both need to approve the environmental assessment, which is why the JRP was formed.
The panel’s report will be submitted to cabinet who will either accept or reject the report, then cabinet will make the decision to allow the project to move ahead or not, all based on the report the JRP will be compiling over the next year.
The process can be a little intimidating, which is why a Process Advisory Team has been created for the project.
“It can be quite overwhelming for people and we wanted to have a team in place that people can contact at any time,” Roy said.
One of the key deadlines is on the horizon as those who wish to register as an intervenor or government participant must register by July 14. Those who wish to make an oral statement must register before Oct. 6 so that their time slot is guaranteed for the Jan. 10, 2012 community hearings. Letters of comment must be received by Mar. 13, 2012. Final hearings begin on June 26, 2012.
All information provided to the Panel will be available for everyone to see on the JRP’s website at www.gatewaypanel.review.gc.ca.
“Even if you’re not registered as an intervenor you can follow the process, you can follow all the information that has been filed on the website,” Roy said. “All the information that has been filed will be there.”
To contact the Process Advisory Team on how the process works, you can call them at 1-866-582-1884 or email them at GatewayProcessAdvisor@ceaa-acee.gc.ca.