Northern Gateway Pipeline Project Joint Review Panel Agreement Issued

OTTAWA, Dec. 4 /CNW/ - The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) and the National Energy Board (NEB) issued today the Joint Review Panel Agreement (the Agreement), including the Terms of Reference, for the environmental and regulatory review of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.

The joint review panel process will provide an opportunity for all hearing participants to make their views known on the project in an open and transparent forum. The public and Aboriginal groups are encouraged to bring their views on the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project forward to the Joint Review Panel (the Panel) once the Panel is established.

The Agreement was issued for public comment before being finalized. The Agreement describes the Panel's terms of reference as well as the process to be followed for conducting the joint panel review.

The Panel has a broad mandate under both the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to consider whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and if it is in the public interest. After conclusion of the review process, the Panel will prepare a Panel Report setting out its conclusions and recommendations relating to the environmental assessment of the project. Following the government response on the Panel Report, the Panel will then issue its reasons for decision under the National Energy Board Act. More specifically, the Panel will:

    
    -   examine all matters related to the project such as safety,
        engineering and economics;
    -   conduct an examination of the environmental effects of the proposed
        project and the significance of those effects;
    -   consider measures that are technically and economically feasible to
        mitigate any adverse environmental effects, the need for and the
        requirements of any follow-up programs with respect to the project;
    -   consider comments from the public that are received during the
        review;
    -   hold public hearings;
    -   submit to the federal government a report with recommendations about
        the project; and
    -   issue its Reasons for Decision pursuant to the National Energy Board
        Act.
    

Additional information on the Agreement is available in the accompanying backgrounder.

The Agreement, including the Terms of Reference, as well as additional information on the project are available on the Agency's website at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca , under reference number 06-05-21799, and on the NEB's website at www.neb-one.gc.ca.

The Agency administers a Participant Funding Program which supports individuals and non-profit organizations and Aboriginal groups interested in participating in the review panel process. Next steps in the review process will include the appointment of the Panel members, the announcement of the participant funding recipients and the filing of the project application by Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines to the NEB. The Panel will provide additional opportunities for public input and input by Aboriginal groups on the List of Issues to be considered by the Panel. Additional information will be available when the Panel issues its Hearing Order.

About the Project

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposes to construct and operate two pipelines, 1,170 km in length, between an inland terminal at Bruderheim, Alberta and a marine terminal near Kitimat, British Columbia. About 500 km of pipeline will be in Alberta and 670 km in British Columbia. One of the pipelines will carry crude oil west to Kitimat and the other line will carry condensate east to Bruderheim. The project also includes the construction and operation of an integrated marine infrastructure at tidewater to accommodate loading and unloading of oil and condensate tankers and marine transportation of oil and condensate.

About the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency administers the federal environmental assessment process, which identifies the environmental effects of proposed projects and measures to address those effects, in support of sustainable development.

About the National Energy Board

Celebrating 50 years of regulatory leadership, the National Energy Board is an independent federal agency that regulates several parts of Canada's energy industry. Its purpose is to promote safety and security, environmental protection, and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest, within the mandate set by Parliament in the regulation of pipelines, energy development and trade.

    
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                                 Backgrounder

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                      Northern Gateway Pipeline Project
             Joint Review Panel Agreement and Terms of Reference
    

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) and the National Energy Board (NEB) issued the Joint Review Panel Agreement (the Agreement), including the Terms of Reference, for the environmental and regulatory review of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.

The Agreement was signed by the Minister of the Environment and the chair of the NEB. The Agreement includes the process for appointing the Panel members, the proposed Terms of Reference for the Panel, the role the Panel will play in the Crown's overall approach to consultation with Aboriginal groups, and procedures for conducting the joint review process including public hearings.

Comments on the Draft Joint Review Panel Agreement

A public comment period on the draft Agreement was held between February 9 and April 14, 2009. Comments were received from the public, Aboriginal groups and other interested parties. All comments were carefully considered before the Agreement was finalized.

Some of the comments received concerned items that were already captured within the Agreement and Terms of Reference. Other comments led to changes in the Agreement, such as comments received on marine traffic and the need for increased explanation of the joint review panel process.

Issues to be Considered by the Joint Review Panel

The Joint Review Panel (the Panel) has a broad mandate under both the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to consider whether the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and if it is in the public interest. The public and Aboriginal groups are encouraged to bring their views on the project forward to the Panel. There will be opportunities for the public and Aboriginal groups to provide input on the List of Issues to be considered by the Panel. Information on how to submit input will be available when the Panel issues its Hearing Order.

Marine Traffic

Many comments submitted on the draft Agreement focused on the issue of marine traffic and the perception that there is a moratorium on tanker traffic in the coast waters of British Columbia (B.C.). It is the Government of Canada's position that there is presently no moratorium on tanker traffic in the coast waters of B.C. Tanker traffic currently exists in the Ports of Vancouver, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

The Agreement defines the boundaries for the assessment of potential environmental effects associated with marine transportation for this project. The boundary area is:

    
    -   the Confined Channel Assessment Area, as defined by the proponent,
        which includes the marine and shoreline area of Kitimat Arm, Douglas
        Channel to Camano Sound, and Principe Channel to Browning Entrance;
    -   Hecate Strait; and
    -   the proposed shipping routes to be used for the project that are
        within the 12 nautical mile limit of the Territorial Sea of Canada.
    

Joint Review Panel Process

The Agency and the NEB also received requests for additional information on the joint review panel process. To provide a better understanding of the process, a new Part IV section has been added to the Terms of Reference. The joint review process will provide the public and Aboriginal groups with an opportunity to make their views known in an open and transparent forum. The Hearing Order issued by the Panel will provide a detailed description of the hearing process. After conclusion of the review process, the Panel will prepare a Panel Report setting out its conclusions and recommendations relating to the environmental assessment of the project.

Information Requirements

To bring more clarity to the type and amount of information the proponent should consider in preparing its application, the Terms of Reference were revised to refer to the NEB's Filing Manual. In addition, a Scope of Factors document was prepared by the Agency. If the Panel feels information submitted by the proponent is insufficient to assess the environmental effects of the project, the proponent will be required to provide more evidence to satisfy the Panel.

Aboriginal Matters

In response to questions on how the Crown's duty to consult will be met, the Agreement was revised to include details on the information the Panel will receive and include in its report regarding the adverse impacts that the project may have on potential or established Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Regulatory Decisions

Following the government response on the Panel Report, the Panel pursuant to the National Energy Board Act will determine if the project should proceed and under which conditions. The other federal responsible authorities for the project will also take a course of action according to the government response on the Panel Report.

A copy of the Agreement, including the Terms of Reference, as well as additional information on the project are available on the Agency's website at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca, under reference number 06-05-21799, and on the NEB's website at www.neb-one.gc.ca.

SOURCE Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

For further information: For further information: Media may contact: Annie Roy, Manager Communications, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Tel.: (613) 957-0396; Kristen Higgins, Communications Officer, National Energy Board, Tel.: (403) 299-3122


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