The Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel has decided the Prince Rupert will be hosting an entire month of hearings where panel members, experts and those registered as interveners in the hearing process, will question the evidence that has been presented for and against the controversial pipeline.
The questioning hearings are one of the final phases before the National Energy Board’s regulatory review of the pipeline comes to a close. The Prince Rupert hearings are the last ones, and are scheduled to run from November 18 to December 18, six days a week from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm (12:30 pm on Saturdays).
After they are over, all that will be left to do is final arguments, but where those will be held has yet to be determined.
Prince Rupert, Prince George and Edmonton were picked to host the three months of meetings by the JRP to host the three months of questioning hearings for a couple reasons:
All three cities are close the pipeline route, they’re all easy for participants to travel to (there was concern that some witnesses couldn’t make the trip to more remote communities), they all have facilities large enough to hold the hearings which will have many people involved, and those facilities have the technology to support things like webcasting and audio/visual presentations.
The facilities are also considered “safe” which may be a reference to the protests in Bella Bella that caused the panel to cancel hearings in that community out of concern for safety.
The questioning hearings will be an opportunity for parties in the review process to go over all the evidence that has been presented over the past months – for and against the pipeline – with a critical eye. Groups will be able to call in their own witnesses, have panels of experts from both sides go over often highly technical information, and of course ask questions themselves.
Each of the cities has a different list of evidence that will be considered over the month that the hearings are taking place, all of which can be called into question by participants.
The list of issues to be looked at in Prince Rupert is dense, but they fall into five basic categories.
First, the hearings will examine the evidence on what the impact of the project will be on the Aboriginal rights and title of First Nations who live along the pipeline and tanker routes.
Second, they will look at the evidence of what the environmental effects of the marine terminal in Kitimat and the supertankers will be on the North Coast environment. This will include the cumulative effects, what if an accident happens, what the mitigation measures could be, etc.
Third, the socio-economic affects that could result from the Kitimat terminal and tankers will be looked at. Issues such as the effect on human health, heritage resources, traditional land use, employment, and resource use will all be examined.
Fourth will be operations, safety, accident prevention and response. Here they will examine the operation of tankers, emergency response plans, and compensation measures in the event of an accident.
Lastly, will be engagement and consultation, which will deal with both public and aboriginal consultation.
It looks to be a full month; The Prince Rupert Northern View will have daily coverage of the hearings on our website while they are in the city.