NEB Expects Pipeline Progress Report In October

Canada's National Energy Board said last week that the chairs of the boards and agencies responsible for assessing and regulating Northwest Territories energy developments will submit their first progress report in early October, followed by a draft cooperation plan for public comment detailing proposals to construct a northern gas pipeline through the NWT.

The pipeline draft coordination plan, which has been undergoing extensive review for almost a year, already has several elements in place, including the following:

  • A common set of information requirements for both the environmental assessment and regulatory components of the process;
  • Development of appropriate rules that meet the needs of all the affected boards and agencies;
  • Agreement on sharing resources, including staff, technical and logistic support;
  • Clear links between the environmental assessment and regulatory components of the process; and
  • Development of a common public registry to ensure public access.

Frank Pope, who chairs the NEB's Pipeline Working Group, said, "Work on this process has taken longer than any of us anticipated. We are committed to making sure this process will be rigorous, comprehensive and address the needs of the northern people and the environment. We are trying to make the process robust enough to match the size and complexity of whatever route or routes are finally decided upon."

Pope did not detail, however, whether the region's diversified interests were close to a compromise, or what sort of mechanism would permit the pipeline to be constructed. Several proposals have been floated regarding who would own and construct a natural gas pipeline through the NWT, with one offering 100% aboriginal ownership, and others offering partial ownership by regional stakeholders (see NGI, July 2). Since November 2000, the NWT boards and agencies have been working on a pipeline proposal that would match the divergent interests of all of the stakeholders in the region, especially aboriginal interests, which are seen as key to any deal.

The energy development progress report, which will be submitted to the Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is expected in early October. By the middle of October, NEB expects to release the draft cooperation plan, which would then be issued for public comment before it could be ratified.

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