Producers and stakeholders trying to iron out problems with the long-stalled $7 billion Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline may be close to making a “positive announcement,” a member of the negotiating team said Thursday.

Nellie Cournoyea, CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., said the consortium was “very close” to announcing an agreement. She has been negotiating with a consortium of producers led by Imperial Oil to resolve access and benefits agreements for native tribes affected by the Canadian pipe. Her comments about a pending announcement mirrored statements by ExxonMobil Corp. President Rex Tillerson a few days ago (see Daily GPI, Nov. 10). Imperial is a subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

“We have been negotiating on benefits agreements, and I guess the best I can tell you right now is we are very close and we really expect on Nov. 18 there’s going to be a positive announcement,” Cournoyea told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. She also is former chair of consortium member the Aboriginal Pipeline Group (APG) and a one-time premier of the Northwest Territories.

“Certainly from the effort that has been put into those negotiations it looks like we will be ready to see a positive announcement,” she said.

Tillerson’s and Cournoyea’s comments coincide with a deadline set by the National Energy Board (NEB) last month. The NEB is planning a pre-hearing planning conference in the Northwest Territories in early December to provide information on the possible hearing process for the Mackenzie project. NEB informed Imperial it had until Nov. 18 to announce whether it was ready to proceed to the public hearing stage. If Imperial does not inform NEB of its intentions by that date, the conference will be postponed, NEB said.

Imperial is leading the Mackenzie pipeline consortium with partners Shell Canada, ConocoPhillips and the APG, which holds a one third stake in the project.

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