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Enbridge hearings in Prince Rupert begin

~Quinn Bender

The BC government began its part in the cross-examination of Enbridge/Northern Gateway representatives at the Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings in Prince Rupert Monday, concentrating on key issues around marine spills.

Questions from the Province’s legal counsel will focus on the Northern Gateway Project’s (NGP) maritime spill prevention and response capabilities and follow up on the last round of questioning regarding land-based spill response asked in Prince George last October.

The BC government wants NGP representatives to explain how they will achieve one of the Province’s five minimum requirements for heavy oil pipelines set out in July 2012 ­—world-leading marine oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments.

“Our government is committed to defending British Columbians’ interests, which is why I will be attending initial testimony in Prince Rupert,” said minister of environment Terry Lake. “While marine spill response is primarily a federal issue, it is important that our government ensure British Columbians are protected from financial and environmental risk. B.C. will continue to work with the federal government on a world-leading marine-based spill response model and are encouraged by their plans to introduce legislation around the polluter-pay model.”

Among the list of topics the Province is looking to get more details on are spill response standards and availability of response resources as well as how the challenges of northern B.C.’s geography and climate could impact a spill response. The company also will be questioned on the extent of its responsibility, accountability and relationships with the marine carriers once tankers leave the Prince Rupert terminal.

In late February, and again in March, the Province will return to Prince Rupert to ask questions of two additional NGP witness panels - one dealing with issues related to the environmental risk assessment for pipeline spills as submitted by NGP and the other dealing with shipping and navigation. Once questioning in Prince Rupert is complete, the Joint Review Panel will release a schedule for intervenors to deliver final arguments regarding the project.

While the primary regulatory responsibility for marine spills is federal, B.C. does have a significant role to play and would become the lead agency if and when the oil comes ashore. The B.C. government said it’s committed to working with the federal government to ensure the Province has a world-class spill response model for marine transport.

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