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Environmental Groups to Press on for Cumulative Impact Assessment of MGP

Groups keep pressing for long-term review of Mackenzie pipeline project
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 | 9:44 AM CT
CBC News

Environmental groups say they will still press for an independent review of the proposed Mackenzie natural gas project, even after their request was turned down last week.

The World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club of Canada were informed Friday that the Joint Review Panel rejected their motion to commission an independent report on the potential long-term environmental effects of such a project.

But the panel, which is looking at the environmental and social impact of the proposed pipeline, did agree to listen to the environmentalists on the matter during its next hearing in Yellowknife on Aug. 27-31.

Robert Powell, director of the Mackenzie River Basin program with the World Wildlife Fund, said he will reiterate the organizations' request at that hearing, calling on the panel to hire an independent consultant to measure the impact the proposed 1,220-kilometre gas pipeline could have on the land.

"Certainly we'll be arguing that it makes a great deal of sense to consider all of the potential results for the future — the good and bad impacts," Powell told CBC News on Monday.

"So going in with our eyes open is preferable to looking at it from a fairly narrow point of view and missing some of the potential consequences."
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Powell said a cumulative effects assessment of the proposed pipeline by Calgary-based Imperial Oil, the project's lead proponent, is lacking in scale and scope.

The company's assessment concluded that the pipeline would present no significant environmental impact. But Powell argued that once the pipeline is built, it would spark a flurry of energy exploration and development that has not yet been properly considered.

If the Joint Review Panel accepts the groups' argument for an independent review, Powell acknowledged that it could further delay hearings that have been stretched out over several years.

"One consequence of that would be that they would then have to order some sort of addendum to what we have so far, which is in fact what we were asking for. And if that were to occur then, of course, that would further delay the proceedings," he said.

On Friday, the panel scheduled its last hearing for Nov. 20 in Inuvik. Town councillor Clarence Wood, who has attended many of the panel's hearings, said it's now difficult to believe there could be an end to the hearings, never mind a pipeline becoming reality.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Wood said. "This process has taken so long … personally, I don't feel there's going to be a pipeline that I will see."

Environmental groups are not the only parties threatening to delay progress on the proposed pipeline: the Dene Tha' First Nation from northern Alberta is negotiating a settlement with the federal government after the Federal Court agreed the First Nation was not properly consulted about the pipeline. The Joint Review Panel is not allowed to release its final report until that matter is settled.

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