The Joint Review Panel hearings on a massive tar sands pipeline proposal in Canada resumed on Monday in Edmonton, Alberta. They continue with cross-examination of Enbridge’s panel of consultants and employees. Our lawyer from EcoJustice, Tim Leadem, wrapped up questioning John Carruthers, President of Northern Gateway, on his opening remarks. Mr. Carruthers had claimed that his Northern Gateway project could have a positive impact on species. It was confirmed that these would mostly be the human species.
He then finished questioning consultant Roland Priddle, mostly trying to read more of the off-shore oil and gas commission report he chaired onto the public record (which clearly shows the majority opposed off-shore drilling in Hecate Strait). I couldn’t help but think that there was a conflict of interest in there. Mr. Priddle is the former Chair of the National Energy Board and is now sitting as a supporter on the expert panel of Enbridge. Can he really be treated in an unbiased manner by the National Energy Board conducting this federal review?
The following couple of days included a lot of vague answers from Enbridge and their experts, plus a lot of unanswered questions and spin to slip in project promotion. A few highlights out of the cross-examination of the Haisla First Nation included their line of questioning around Enbridge’s Corporate Social Responsibility. Lawyer Hannah Boye asked whether their depiction of Douglas Channel with no islands, outcrops or rocky passages was in accordance with their ethics, accountability and value of truth/openness. The Haisla also unveiled differences in Enbridge oil production forecasts, lack of cultural values included in cost-benefit analysis, exclusion of the massive Kalamazoo river disaster in their oil spill cost expectations, and how Kalamazoo will be an influencing factor in rising insurance rates and liabilities.
Coastal First Nations also started off addressing Enbridge’s corporate policies. In terms of their Aboriginal policy, their Council Brenda Gaertner asked why then did Enbridge lobby the Federal Government to cancel the marine-use planning process known as PNCIMA? Mr. Carruthers denied it, despite proof to the contrary. She then moved into asking Enbridge about their spill statistics. If Enbridge claims that they are learning from their spills, why is it that they’ve made no improvements? They almost doubled their kilometres of pipeline from 1998 to 2010, and more than doubled their number of spills.
Cross-examination of Enbridge on economic issues will wrap up Friday and then turn to Enbridge’s cross-examination of intervenors. To date, the conclusions for me out of the Edmonton hearings are that the company’s strongest case for promoting this Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project, has always been with economics. But that is proving to be full of gaps and providing little in the way of confidence.