Harper warns pipeline hearings could be 'hijacked'
Northern Gateway seeks to carry oilsands crude to West Coast
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will look into measures to prevent the approval process for energy projects from being "hijacked" by opponents of the developments.
Harper told journalists Friday he's heard concerns expressed about the use of foreign money by interveners opposed to an oilsands pipeline proposed for northern B.C. by Calgary-based Enbridge.
The prime minister said the government is prepared to review how public consultations are conducted to ensure they don’t get overloaded for the purpose of slowing down the process.
He said Canada must have hearings that reach decisions in a reasonable amount of time and that can't be unduly influenced.
Harper's comments echoed those of oilsands advocacy groups, which have attacked several Canadian environmental organizations for accepting money from U.S. sources.
Enbridge has said its $5.5-billion, 1,172-kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline, which would run from near Edmonton to Kitimat, on the B.C. coast, would diversify the market for Canadian oil away from reliance on the U.S., by opening the trade by tanker with Asia.
Harper recently said his government wants to end that dependence and to get a better price for Canada’s oil. Environmental groups and some First Nations oppose the pipeline out of concern about oil spills and the effects on aboriginal land claims.
Hearings to review both Gateway's environmental safety and whether it is in the national interest are set to open in Kitimat on Tuesday. More than 4,000 interveners will take part.
The project would involve two pipelines, one carrying oilsands crude west and the other transporting imported condensate, a solvent similar to kerosene, used to dilute oilsands bitumen in order that it can be pumped through pipelines.
With files from The Canadian Press