Mackenzie hearings ready to hit the road
Petroleum News Canadian Contributing Writer
Regulators have set the schedule for the next important phase of the Mackenzie Gas Project which will command attention through all of 2006.
Canada’s National Energy Board will begin the first of a scheduled 63 days of public hearings on Jan. 25 in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and end the process on Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, the Joint Review Panel assigned to deal with environmental issues will also start in Inuvik on Feb. 14 and visit 27 communities in the NWT and Yukon as well as Edmonton and Calgary.
The hearings will be conducted in English, French and at least four aboriginal languages.
NEB chairman Ken Vollman, one of three board members selected for the Mackenzie hearings, said it was decided to coordinate the federal regulator’s schedule with the environmental panel.
The board panel will consider engineering, safety and economic matters.
The environmental panel has already laid some of the groundwork by conducting a series of information sessions over the last year, stopping in every community where hearings will be conducted.
The process will be unprecedented in its scope, dealing with a multitude of aboriginal, community and local government concerns over the impact of the C$7.5 billion project on land, the environment, society and the economy.
There are those who regard developing northern gas resources as a chance to give the NWT a self-supporting economy; others are demanding answers on the long-term environmental impact of exploiting resources.
The Mackenzie proponents — Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, ConocoPhillips Canada, ExxonMobil Canada and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group — will also come under intense scrutiny over the fiscal terms they are able to negotiate with the Canadian government.
Imperial, the lead sponsor, has indicated that gas is unlikely to flow from the Mackenzie Delta before 2011, allowing time to complete the hearings, obtain regulatory approval along with hundreds of permits, put the project before the commercial partners for a final green light and construct a 720-mile pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley to northern Alberta to initially carry 80 million to 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day.