British Columbia has concluded its cross-examination at the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel hearings. The Province has been asking pipeline representatives questions that reflect British Columbians' very real concerns about the project, Environment Minister Terry Lake said.
"We've always said we respect the environmental assessment process," Lake said. "Through our cross-examination, we didn't get as much information as we hoped to from NGP on how they intend to deliver the world-leading spill prevention, response and remediation that we require. That is something we feel the panel will give due consideration."
Provincial legal counsel cross-examined NGP representatives at the JRP hearings throughout the fall and winter. In Edmonton, the questions focused on financial arrangements, such as the ability of NGP to access sufficient funds, including insurance funds, to cover cleanup costs.
During cross-examination in Prince George on land-based spill preparedness and response, NGP did not demonstrate how they would be able to access or respond to spills in remote areas or how they would locate and recover sunken oil. The Province's cross-examination also revealed that NGP will not have a spill response plan finalized until six months before pipeline operations begin.
In Prince Rupert, during questioning on marine emergency preparedness and response, NGP made it clear that the actual spill response plans required to assess their ability to meet commitments will not be developed until the project has been approved. The Province's final round of questioning - also in Prince Rupert - was on shipping and navigation, where discussion focused on: the use of tug escorts, tanker vetting and inspection, navigation routes, and the company's work in assessing the potential for tanker spills. It was confirmed that NGP would not be requiring tankers to exclusively use the routes identified in its application. NGP also confirmed that it would not be providing a dedicated rescue tug.
BC has established five key requirements that must be met before the Province will support any heavy oil pipeline - including NGP. Those conditions are:
- 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 proceed;
- World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments;
- World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines;
- 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; and
- 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.
The province's next step is to assess the differences between what Northern Gateway has proposed and what B.C. requires to be satisfied that marine and land-based spill response is world-leading. The final arguments phase of the Joint Review Panel process is scheduled for May-June 2013.
"We have made it clear that B.C. will only support the Northern Gateway pipeline if it satisfies our five conditions," Lake said.
Over and above the NGP hearing process, the province continues to pursue world-leading spill prevention and preparedness policies on both land and water. British Columbia is contracting Nuka Research and Planning Group to review, evaluate and prepare a report on the current marine oil spill prevention, preparedness and response regime for the coast and will be hosting a symposium in Vancouver on March 25-27, where over 200 delegates will help shape future policy around world-leading practices for spill preparedness and response.
Ministry of Environment