This week the Technical Hearings for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project got underway in Edmonton. After months of reviewing Enbridge’s hefty application, asking them clarification questions and identifying gaps, finding experts and putting our own evidence and reports forward, being questioned by Enbridge on that evidence, and having the Panel ask questions, things have, in essence, moved into a live court-like process. These hearings are an opportunity for registered intervenors to cross-exam Enbridge on their evidence, and also for Enbridge and others to cross-exam some of those who submitted their own reports and evidence.
Unlike the community hearings where people got the chance to speak from the heart or give a presentation for up to 10 minutes, there are no presentations during these hearings. The company and other intervenors have to defend their evidence that is on the public record with the National Energy Board. While Enbridge will be doing its best to defend the merits of its proposal, most intervenors will be doing their best to highlight the gaps, deficiencies and lack of credibility of Enbridge’s proposal. In other words, convincing the three-member Panel that this high-risk project is not in Canada’s national interest.
In Edmonton, the hearings deal with the economic issues related to the pipeline and tanker project. Then they will move to Prince George to talk about pipeline safety/integrity, and will wrap up in Prince Rupert where marine issues and Aboriginal Rights will be addressed.
Most of the initial three days of the hearings were taken up by the Alberta Federation of Labour questioning Enbridge on issues such as refineries, economic reasoning for shipping raw bitumen (tar sands), potential price impacts on consumers. They also challenged the integrity of some of the economic analysis reports. The Alexander First Nation questioned Enbridge on equity deals and benefits, and sought clarity on Aboriginal consultation.
The BC Government, absent to date from the review process (having submitted no reports or questions over the previous months), showed up next. I found it rather amusing that despite sending Premier Clark’s “"A team" to the hearings”, they were still unable to keep to the list of issues being addressed in Edmonton. Even though Minister Lake and Geoff Plant were there, the Panel adjourned the hearings until the morning so that BC representatives could regroup and tailor their appropriate questions to the economic and financial issues being addressed in Edmonton. Hopefully they will do a better job Friday, because we need leadership from British Columbia to challenge Enbridge on a project that is definitely not in this province’s interest.