For the Mackenzie Gas Project it’s like a case of what you gain on the teeter-totter you lose on the roundabout.
On the upside, the Deh Cho First Nations have put their lawsuits against the Canadian government on hold in anticipation of a deal with the government.
Hanging in the balance is the prospect of a federal-Northwest Territories pact to pay the costs of the Mackenzie pipeline’s socio-economic impact.
On the downside, delegates to a June 26-29 environmental impact statement conference in Yellowknife say they still lack detailed information on the pipeline’s impact in the Northwest Territories.
The conference was designed to help the Joint Review Panel decide if and when full-scale public hearings for the C$7 billion project could be scheduled.
In a letter to the federal court on June 20, the Deh Cho asked to postpone their lawsuits seeking a greater role in the environmental review process, indicating progress in their talks with Ottawa.
There have been reports a deal might include a C$15 million economic development fund for the 4,500 residents of Deh Cho communities, but there has been no comment from either side beyond confirmation that negotiations are proceeding.
Northwest Territories’ Premier Joe Handley has told reporters that the federal government has also offered to cost-share a socio-economic impact fund with his government to meet the Northwest Territories’ demand for C$100 million a year to until Ottawa is prepared to hike its allocation of resource revenues to 40 percent from 4 percent.
Handley has delivered a blunt message to the federal government: The Northwest Territories wants a percentage of resource revenues, not a fixed amount.
He is also unhappy about the prospect of diverting Northwest Territories’ money into a socio-economic fund.
Separately, Stephen Kakfwi, chief negotiator for the Kahsho Gotine community based in Fort Good Hope, is pressing ahead with his case for 5 percent or about C$40 million a year of revenue generated by the pipeline to be channeled to aboriginal groups.
Environmental groupsMeanwhile, the Yellowknife conference again hammered home a concern among environmental groups that, despite supplementary information from the Mackenzie consortium this year, they want more information on the project’s impact on climate change, permafrost, stream crossings and the Mackenzie River.
In February, the Joint Review Panel identified shortcomings in the Mackenzie consortium’s initial regulatory filing and said that those information gaps were closed, so the panel would not schedule hearings. Panel chairman Robert Hornal, in his opening remarks to the Yellowknife conference, said the panel has “received a substantial amount of supplementary information.”
He also said that the panel has made “substantial progress” over the past 10 months on its environmental review, along with registering 93 people and organizations as interveners in the review process.
Hornal said the panel would confine itself to an observer role at the Yellowknife session, then review all of the information it has received before deciding whether to proceed to public hearings.
He said that decision would be a “judgment call that the panel must make for itself.”