Pressing pause

Groups propose adjournment to Northern Gateway review process.

 

Enbridge may be given a “time out” by the Joint Review Panel if some intervenors have their way.

The Haisla Nation, Coastal Nation, Gitxaala Nation and Sustainability Coalition requested an adjournment to the current Joint Review Panel process reviewing Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Project.

They have asked the panel to adjourn until their information requests have been answered to their satisfaction and to then allow time for the groups to respond to Enbridge’s answers.

It is one more complication in an already complicated process.

Each of the motions put forward by the different groups have asked for the adjournment in order to obtain “full and adequate” responses to their information requests filed earlier this fall.

While Enbridge did file responses to the information requests, these groups are apparently unsatisfied with the answers they were provided.

“We’ve asked for specific information from Enbridge and Enbridge has not provided that information,” said Elmer Moody, elected chief of  the Gitxaala Nation. “The expectation is that the hearings be adjourned until Enbridge fully participates.”

Gitxaala Nation would like more information on spill response plans, time frames and potential impacts of a coastal spill in their territory.

Their fellow intervenors in the process had until Nov. 30 to submit their comments on the proposed motion.

Thirteen of the registered intervenors submitted letters of comment supporting the motions for an adjournment.

One of the thirteen registered intervenors or government participants who filed letters of comment supporting the motions to adjourn is the Fort St. James Sustainability Group.

“The Fort St James Sustainability Group is dissatisfied with the responses we have received from Northern Gateway to our Information Requests, and will be seeking redress to receive the information we are looking for,” said the group in their letter to the review panel.

The letter not only supports the motions but also asks for more of the planning for spill response and public consultation work to be done prior to project approval.

So far, many of the intervenor groups have gotten responses to their information requests which defer answering specific spill response planning and some technical research questions until after project approval.

“We think that the responses that we’ve recieved are really just sugar-coating,” said Louise Evens-Salt, a member of the local Fort St. James Sustainability Group. “There’s no substance to them.”

From her perspective, Evans-Salt said support for the motion could help to provide recognition for opposition to a process she sees as “intrinsically flawed” and it will show support for the voices of First Nations.

“We need to stand beside them for once,” she said. “An adjournment would at least say they’re being heard … they’re being respected, that Enbridge and the panel want them at the table.”

Evans-Salt feels the joint review panel is biased and should include more objective representation because it includes two people from the National Energy Board (NEB) and one from Environment Canada. The NEB is an independent federal agency which was established to regulate “international and interprovincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries” according to their own website. However, some groups feel the NEB is biased and too industry-friendly because it is funded by the very industries it regulates.

“I’m not sure that such a major decision should be made by three people,” said Evans-Salt, who would like instead to see a “more objective” panel made up of people with no vested interest in the pipeline who have expertise in areas such as climate science and potential risks for waterways and oceans.

No intervenors wrote letters opposing an adjournment.

Enbridge’s Northern Gateway now has until Dec. 9 to respond to the comments of the intervenors.

The four intervenors who have made a motion to adjourn the process, the Haisla Nation, Coastal Nation, Gitxaala Nation and the Sustainability Coalition, have until Dec. 20 to respond to Northern Gateway’s response.

Then the joint review panel will make a decision on the motion, addressing all the points in the letters putting forward the motion.

“The panel will rule on all of them and depending on its decision then a course of action will be determined,” said Annie Roy, manager of communications for the panel.

How this may impact the schedule of the review panel process won’t be clear until the panel responds and perhaps not even then.

However, just as The Courier was going to press, the Gitxsan Nation announced it had reached an agreement with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway. They have signed an agreement to make them partners in ownership of the pipeline, and are hoping the deal with make their people $7 million. The First Nation is from the Smithers area and has a large territory covering the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers. The Gitxsan are not to be confused with the Gitxaala Nation which filed the motion mentioned in this story. The Gitxaala Nation is located on the northcoast, southwest of Prince Rupert.Enbridge did not respond to interview requests by press time.