The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project and the federal government signed an agreement Friday to conduct the environmental assessment of the proposed pipeline.
Enbridge Northern Gateway vice-president Steve Greenaway said the company has been working toward the joint review process for two years.
“The release of the joint review agreement is a very significant and positive step forward,” Greenaway said. “It provides a very thorough and comprehensive review of the project.”
The company is expecting to file it’s review documentation in the first quarter of 2010, he said.
“I expect there will be extensive regulatory hearings along the pipeline corridor in late 2010 and early 2011,” he said. “If approved, and if we were to achieve the strong commercial interest in the project which we believe we will, the earliest we could begin construction would be 2013.”
The proposed 1,170 km twin pipeline would run from Kitimat to Strathcona County, Alta. just outside Edmonton.
A 36-inch pipeline would transport an average 525,000 barrels of oil to Kitmat per day to be loaded in oil tankers heading to California and Asia.
A 20-inch pipeline would move 193,000 barrels of condensate a chemical treatment for crude oil east from Kitimat to Edmonton.
An estimated 225 tankers per year would navigate the Douglas Channel to reach the marine terminal in Kitimat
The project involves creating three tunnels through the Telkwa Pass totaling 12 km. The proposed route for the project would follow Highway 37 north from Kitimat before veering east passing just north of Burns Lake, south of Fort St. James, north of Bear Lake, south of Grand Prairie, south of Mayerthorpe and into Strathcona Country.
Enbridge estimates the multi-billion project would generate 4,000 jobs during the construct phase.
Greenaway said the joint review process will examine First Nations rights, economic impact, environmental concerns and marine concerns, he said.
“We believe our project will stand up to that high level of scrutiny.”
However, some First Nations groups say their concerns aren’t being adequately addressed in the process.
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council vice-chief Terry Teegee said First Nations weren’t included in the creation of the joint review agreement.
“We wanted to review the terms of reference and have input into it,” Teegee said. “They’ve stated that First Nations are considered a government. But since environmental assessments changed in 2002-03… they have really gutted it.”
The health and security of streams and waterways is a major concern to First Nations groups, he said, who have traditionally relied on salmon fishing for sustenance.
“It’s the third year of a downturn in salmon stocks,” he said. “A spill could devastate an already devastated fish stock.”
In addition to local concerns, there is a global concern about the impact of global warming, he said.
Teegee will be taking part in the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark taking place this week and next week.
“I’ll be siting on a side panel and talking about depending on carbon resources,” Teegee said. “We don’t want to be a party that is contributing to climate change. We don’t support the pipeline, nor will we be involved with the joint review panel.”
Nadleh Whut’en Chief Larry Nooski said his people’s rights are being ignored by the process.
“People need to know that any project that enters this federal process has a more than 99 per cent chance of getting approved,” Nooski said in a press release. “To Nadleh Whut’en this is not an open and transparent process. It is not real governance or decision making, but it is a direction infringement of our constitutional right to aboriginal governance.”