Protests planned for final hearings

Anti-pipeline activists will be on guard outside the final public hearings for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, scheduled for June 17 in Terrace.

Protesters are coming in from as far as Vancouver and Prince George to demonstrate outside the Best Western on Greig Ave. where the hearings are taking place, while inside the hotel lawyers from the province will present the B.C. government's “no” decision on the project in its current form.

Among the other 34 individuals and groups presenting for or against the project include nine First Nations, NDP MP Nathan Cullen and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

Enbridge is the first up and has two hours to present their final argument. The other presenters have an hour each, which means the hearings could last well over a week, according to National Energy Board spokesperson Kristen Higgens.

Those arguing in favour of the project are looking to prove that Enbridge's environmental checks and fiscal plan make the proposed 1,170 km twin bitumen and condensate pipeline safe and worthwhile for stakeholders along the route.

The proposed pipeline would extend from the Alberta oil sands to a terminal near Kitimat on the B.C. coast with the bitumen then transported by tanker to processing facilities abroad.

The proposal has been met with heavy opposition along the way, with protests and anti-Enbridge campaigns staged throughout the review process, which has seen 1,200 oral statements made since it began nearly a year-and-a-half ago and the participation of 215 intervenors – people or groups who submit written material and engage in formal debate.

“Only a handful have presented in favour and thousands have spoken out against it,” said Mikael Jensen, who is organizing the upcoming protests, set for the day before and the first day of the hearing.

The Joint Review Panel has until Dec. 31 to present their decision to the federal government, at which point the cabinet will make the final call on whether to approve the project.

The B.C. government submitted their written statement last month opposing the project in its current form, and will now follow that up with their oral component. The province is fifth on the list of presenters with lawyers Elisabeth Graff and Christopher H. Jones making the final statements on the government's behalf.

The June 17 presentations are open to the public and will also be available through a webcast on the National Energy Board website. The deadline to submit written material, which was required to participate in the oral hearings, was May 31.

The larger demonstration of the two will be Sunday, June 16 at 2 p.m. beginning in George Little Park. Speakers include Art Sterritt, executive director, Coastal First Nations and Gerald Amos, chair, Friends of Wild Salmon with live performances by Rachelle Van Zanten and the Gitlaxdax Nisga'a Dancers.

The first time the hearings were in Terrace was in January 2012 at the beginning of the process.

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