Northern Gateway hearings end early

Final arguments will resume Monday morning at Best Western in Terrace

FEDERAL hearings into Enbridge’s planned Northern Gateway oil pipeline were put on hold this afternoon because of a scheduling conflict and will resume Monday morning.

This decision was announced by the panel chair Sheila Leggett after a series of requests were submitted.

Enbridge counsel Richard Neufeld made an initial request that his company’s final presentation be slotted in Monday instead of tomorrow morning because he felt tomorrow’s shortened schedule didn’t leave enough time for his presentation.

Enbridge had spoken first on Monday this week in what is referred to as the top down segment, and had 34 speakers following representing 40 interests.

The company can now respond to those presentations and that segment is now set for Monday.

The original schedule had tomorrow’s hearings wrapping up at 4:30 pm but three unexpected deaths affecting the federal panel and its staff examining the project created the need to conclude at 1 pm.

Neufeld was granted the deferral by the panel, after which Barry Robinson of the environmental coalition (that represents ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation) said this seemed unfair because of the extra cost of staying the weekend to see Enbridge’s rebuttal as well as the advantage it gave for preparation time.

Robinson said he found it “unusual” that Neufeld would be given the extension, and a representative of the Haisla First Nation echoed the need to have all the intervenors on the same page.

After another brief consultation with the other staff, Leggett said all of the scheduled response presentations would begin next week.

Whether they all wrap up Monday remains to be seen.

The original schedule had a full two weeks marked off for the hearing beginning June 17 , however the presentation schedule moved along faster than anticipated through shuffling of the lineup, shorter presentations and extended time.

The Terrace hearings mark the end of nearly 18 months of examination by the federal panel of Enbridge’s plan to ship Alberta oil by pipeline to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

Once hearings conclude here, the panel will then write up its final report for presentation to the federal cabinet later this year.