The deadline has passed for registering to be a government participant or intervenor for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel process.
But questions are now arising about whether the process itself is credible, given recent controversy coming from the national energy strategy meetings in Kananaskis, Alberta.
Criticism is being leveled at both provincial and federal levels of government by their opposition.
Skeena-Bulkley MP Nathan Cullen and Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray both responded to comments made by the federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver in Kananaskis.
“It’s troubling to see a federal minister promoting a project that’s currently under review,” said Cullen. “You would think that Enbridge has enough lobbyists; they don’t need the Minister of Natural Resources shilling for them too.”
“A pre-emptive declaration of support constitutes blatant ministerial interference with a federal regulatory process,” said Murray. “The Minister should apologise and retract his comments.”
The comments in question were made during an oil company sponsored senate to develop a national energy policy.
Minister Oliver said: “Asia is a growing market and China, in particular, is the biggest consumer of energy in the world, so we are supportive of the Gateway project because it will open up exports.”
In response to questions around the effects these comments might have on public faith in the independence of the review process, the Office of Minister Joe Oliver said in an email: “Our Government supports diversifying our markets,” and “the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is currently before a joint review panel and we await it’s decision.”
They also said the process will ensure Aboriginal concerns are taken into account and the environment is protected.
This is in contrast to the position being taken by the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC).
The council, which includes the local First Nations groups, did not register to take part in the joint review panel process, declining to participate in a process they don’t believe recognizes their inherent rights and title.
Terry Teegee, vice-president of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council said they see the review as a “rubber-stamping” process due in part to the federal Conservative government’s relationship with “big oil.”
“There probably is a close relationship between this current federal government with industry,” said Teegee.
He was also very critical of the limited scope of the review panel, and said the approval process should take into account the cumulative effect of all of the industry in the areas of the proposed pipeline.
“All that development on the land adds up .. you really have to take a wider look at what’s going on on the land,” said Teegee.
He was also concerned about the effect the pipeline will have on the Alberta Tar Sands, which would require expansion to fill the pipeline capacity.
“I think that’s a conversation not only for Alberta but for the whole country of Canada,” said Teegee.
The BC Liberals did not send the provincial energy minister Rich Coleman to the meetings on a national energy strategy in Kananaskis, where the comments were made. However, Coleman did sign the “Collaborative Approach to Energy” action plan after the other provincial energy ministers had approved it.
New Democrat deputy energy and mines critic Doug Donaldson was critical of the move and stated in a release: “Alberta’s energy minister put out a call to his provincial and federal counterparts to speed up approval of the pipeline,” said Donaldson, “That’s fine for him, but Premier Clark and Minister Coleman have a responsibility to British Columbians.”
The review process, which will gather input from all interested parties on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, is still underway, with dates and locations of the hearings still to be set.
Over two hundred groups and individuals have registered to be intervenors, including some municipalities along the proposed pipeline route. The Village of Burns Lake, City of Prince George, City of Prince Rupert, City of Terrace, MP Nathan Cullen and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako are all registered intervenors.
The District of Fort St. James, District of Chetwynd, District of Kitimat, Village of Masset and the Village of Queen Charlotte are all registered as government participants in the process, along with eight other government bodies.
By registering, the groups and individuals can put forward their concerns and have input into the process which will approve or reject the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, and decide under what conditions it would go forward, should it be approved.
The only way any concerns or questions can be considered by the review panel in their decision to approve or reject the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline is via the Joint Review Panel process.
The Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council, however, because it does not agree with the process, still believes they will have other avenues of action against the pipeline, including taking the issue to an international forum, legal intervention via litigation and direct action.
A newsletter has now been created to inform people about the ongoing process, and can be viewed at www.gatewaypanel.review.gc.ca.