B.C. has appointed Geoff Plant to serve as chief legal strategist for government as cross-examination of Northern Gateway pipelines (NGP) on their Enbridge Northern Gateway Project begins in Edmonton, Minister of Environment Terry Lake announced today.
"Geoff's experience will be invaluable during the cross-examination process as we seek to ensure B.C.'s environment is not compromised by any and all heavy oil pipeline proposals," said Lake. "Our message remains clear: if you want to do business in British Columbia, you must have world-leading polices and processes governing spill prevention, spill response and liability insurance that reduces government and public exposure to risk. I'm proud to have Geoff accompany me today, as I head off to Edmonton to stand up for British Columbia."
Geoff Plant was the Attorney General of British Columbia and Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations from 2001 to 2005. He was first elected to the British Columbia legislature in 1996 and from 1996 to 2001 was Opposition justice critic, as well as serving on a number of legislative and caucus committees. As Attorney General, he was the chair of the Legislative Review Committee and the minister responsible for the creation and oversight of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.
"These hearings are of vital importance to British Columbia's environmental protection," said Plant. "I'm pleased to be a part of B.C's team that has been entrusted to uphold the principled position government is taking with this and any proposal for a heavy oil pipeline."
Questioning in Edmonton will focus on:
- Financial liability of NGP, and its partners for spill response and restoration as well as details regarding liability insurance and plans for full environmental restoration in the event of a spill. This includes the scope of NGP's liability and insurance.
Beyond the B.C. government's cross-examination of NGP, British Columbia remains committed to five requirements that must be met before consideration of any heavy oil pipeline proposal will proceed:
1. Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of NGP, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project can proceed.
2. World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and cost of heavy oil pipelines and shipments.
3. World-leading practices for land oil-spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines.
4. Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy oil project.
5. British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.
Upcoming hearings will focus on:
- Spill prevention, including tanker evaluation, provisions for escort tugs and the training of tug crews as well as commitments NGP has recently made to improve pipeline safety and mitigate spill risk. Those commitments include increasing the wall thickness of the pipeline, increasing the frequency of inspections, installing dual leak-detection systems and 24/7 staffing of pump stations in remote locations.
- Spill response, including commitments NGP has made to exceed regulatory standards for spill response and tanker safety, the use of rescue and escort tugs as well as crew training. Further information will be sought regarding response planning, including the ability to overcome geographic and climate challenges, and challenges specific to the nature of heavy oil. The extent of NGP's reliance on the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and practices of NGP in the wake of the spill in Michigan will also be probed.
Cross-examination at the joint panel final hearings began Sept. 4 and run through December 2012. Final hearings are scheduled in Edmonton (tentatively Sept. 4 to 28), Prince George (tentatively Oct. 1 to Nov. 10) and Prince Rupert (tentatively Nov. 12 to Dec. 18).
Given the nature of the topics being discussed in each community, and the scheduled locations of specific witness panels, B.C. anticipates undertaking some cross-examination in each of the three communities.
The applicant, all interveners (including B.C.) and government participants have the opportunity to make final arguments during the final-argument phase of the JRP's review, currently scheduled for March and April 2013.
A backgrounder follows.
Ministry of Environment
Geoff Plant, Q.C.
Geoff Plant was the Attorney General of British Columbia and Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations from 2001 to 2005. He was first elected to the British Columbia legislature in 1996 and from 1996 to 2001 was Opposition justice critic, as well as serving on a number of legislative and caucus committees. As Attorney General, Mr. Plant was the chair of the Legislative Review Committee and the minister responsible for the creation and oversight of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.
Prior to his election to the legislature, Mr. Plant was a partner in a Vancouver law firm, where he practised as a litigation lawyer with particular emphasis on Aboriginal and public law. He was counsel in a number of leading Aboriginal rights and title cases, including the landmark case of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia. He has lectured and written extensively on Aboriginal law and law reform.
Early in his career, he was law clerk to Mr. Justice Roland Ritchie of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Since joining Heenan Blaikie in 2005, Mr. Plant has been appointed senior advisor to the government of British Columbia in land and resource negotiations with the Council of Haida Nation, has undertaken more than two dozen successful mediations in a dispute between investors and a major Canadian mutual fund company, and has provided strategic advice to BC Hydro in relation to the design and implementation of its power acquisition processes. Mr. Plant has also provided advice to a number of private sector businesses on establishing effective relations with First Nations.
In 2006, Mr. Plant was appointed as a special advisor to the Premier and Minister of Advanced Education to lead a project called Campus 2020: Thinking Ahead, the first comprehensive review of post-secondary education in British Columbia in over 40 years. His report, entitled Access and Excellence: The Campus 2020 Plan for British Columbia's Post-Secondary Education System, was released in April 2007.
From May 2007 until February 2009, Mr. Plant served as Vancouver's civil city commissioner. In 2010, he was appointed chair of the board of directors of Providence Health Care, one of the largest faith-based health-care organizations in Canada, operating 14 sites in Vancouver.
Mr. Plant has been recognized in the 2012 Canadian Legal expert Directory in Aboriginal law.
Ministry of Environment