Enbridge pipeline plan needs more work

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

That decision was handed down Jan. 19 by the three-member Joint Review Panel which has been charged with examining all aspects of the proposed $5.5 billion plan to ship Alberta oil across northern BC to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

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

These were not public hearings but a request from the panel 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 panel 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 panel has asked for information on the supply and markets for both the oil that is to be shipped overseas in tankers and condensate to be piped by the project, commercial support for the project and the economic feasibility of the proposed facilities.

Condensate is an thinner meant to make it easier to pump oil through the pipeline and will be imported at the marine terminal and sent to Alberta through a separate pipeline.

Under the heading potential impacts on aboriginal interests, the panel 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 aboriginal people 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 panel 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 panel 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.

In a separate development Sinopec, a dominant Chinese petroleum company has revealed itself to be one of the financial backers of the pipeline. Sinopec has spent billions buying into companies involved in the Alberta oilsands and by backing the pipeline is trying to find a way to transport oil to its customers in Asia and elsewhere.

(With files from The Northern Sentinel in Kitimat, BC.)

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