Imperial Oil has ended six months of uncertainty by setting in motion the public hearing phase of the Mackenzie Gas Project.
In a Nov. 23 letter to the National Energy Board, Imperial said sufficient progress has been made in a number of key areas to proceed to the formal hearings, which could start as early as mid-January.
Imperial Senior Vice President Randy Broiles said the progress has been achieved in clarifying the regulatory process, negotiating benefits and lad access agreements with aboriginal regions and discussing a fiscal framework with governments.
He said a Nov. 18 letter from Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan “provides us with sufficient confidence that outstanding matters will be addressed.”
That letter presented options for fiscal concessions and a possible commercial role for the Canadian government.
Broiles said it is hoped that recently negotiated benefits and access agreement terms with aboriginal groups will be “fully ratified and executed” in December.
Reports out of the Northwest Territories suggest the Inuvialuit, Sahtu and Gwich’in are close to signing deals, but the Deh Cho remain a steadfast holdout.
Deh Cho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian has told reporters his region insists on being treated like a government — even though the Deh Cho are still negotiating a land claim and self-government deal — and want the right to collect property taxes from the pipeline, although that option has been rejected by McLellan.
Broiles emphasized that moving into the hearing phase is not a final decision to proceed with construction.
He said that hinges on obtaining the necessary approvals and permits, negotiating final benefits and access agreement and fiscal terms, the outlook for North America’s natural gas markets, project costs and the level of shipping commitments.
Editor’s note: See full story in the Dec. 4 issue of Petroleum News.