North

Hurry up on Mackenzie pipeline report, proponent tells joint review panel

The panel looking at impacts of the proposed Mackenzie natural gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories was urged by project proponents to get its report done sooner than later.

After nearly two years of public hearings, the panel looking at impacts of the proposed Mackenzie natural gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories was urged by project proponents to get its report done sooner than later.

Speaking at closing hearings of the Joint Review Panel in Inuvik, Bob Reid, president of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, told the panel Wednesday that it could make up fortime lost inhearing delaysby releasing its report ahead of the current timeline.

According to a schedule the panel published in September, its report is supposed to be ready in the summer of 2008. It will then take another year before the National Energy Board makes its final decision on whether the proposed 1,200-kilometre pipeline should proceed.

At that rate, Reid said, the review process will have taken almost five years — more than double the time originally predicted by regulators.

"Our shareholders, however, are telling us that enough is enough. It's now time to get on with the job," he said.

"We urge the Joint Review Panel to issue its report in an expeditious manner, hopefully making up for some of the lost time and allowing the date of the final decision to be significantly advanced."

The Joint Review Panel is looking at environmental and socio-economic impacts of the proposed pipeline, which promises to pump thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into the N.W.T. but may also open vast areas of the territory to environmental damage and social disruption.

The panel's hearings began on Feb. 14, 2006, but the schedule was beset with numerous delays.

About two dozen interveners, including aboriginal and environmental groups, government departments and the proponents themselves, are scheduled to give their final thoughts on the proposal until Nov. 30.

The Aboriginal Pipeline Group represents the Inuvialuit, the Gwich'in and the Sahtu nations, three of the four aboriginal land-claims organizations in the Mackenzie Valley. It has negotiated a one-third stake in the $16.2-billionproject.

A consortium of partners led by Imperial Oil wants to build the pipeline along the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories to the Alberta border, where it would connect with existing pipelines and link to southern markets.

Last week, the federal government refuted claims from environmental groups that gas from the Mackenzie Valley would go directly to fuel oilsands development in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Speaking to northern ministers in Ottawa Nov. 23, Rod Bruinooge, parliamentary secretary to Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, said the benefits of the pipeline, should it proceed, will flow to all of Canada.

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