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Conservative leader calls for sped-up review process on Enbridge pipeline

The leader of British Columbia’s Conservative Party is calling for changes to speed up the environmental review process for the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

In a statement released on Wednesday, John Cummins recommended that two additional review panels be established to hear the over 4,000 individuals, groups and companies that have filed to be heard at the Joint Review Panel’s public hearings about the project. He also recommends that only Canadians should be allowed to testify at those hearings, not outside interest groups.

"Canadians should be heard, but these hearings cannot go on indefinitely. Most importantly no one group or community should have a veto on the development of a project that is so important to British Columbia,” said Cummins in a statement.

He stated he appreciates the concerns of local communities, and that stringent regulations must be in place to ensure the project “is done in an environmentally safe and secure manner." However, he stated the pipeline “is vitally important for the economic future of BC and Canada,” and blasts the provincial Liberal government for not making its support of the project clear.

Attempts to reach the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for comment on these recommendations have been unsuccessful so far.

Cummins comments come after Joe Oliver, Canadian Natural Resources Minister, also called for an expedited review process for the project last month.

The Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is a three-person panel of experts in energy and the environment. The panel is set to hear testimony starting with a community hearing in Kitimat, B.C., on Jan. 10 and 11. Hearings are scheduled to take place in communities across northern British Columbia and Alberta throughout next spring, although no hearings have been scheduled in the B.C. Peace region.

After hearing oral statements from registered participants who live in or near the proposed project area, the panel will hold final hearings on that evidence late next year. The panel will then hear oral statements from registered participants who do not live in or near the proposed project area late next year and into 2013. In April, 2013, the panel is expected  to hear final arguments from the applicant, intervenors and government participants. Based on that projected schedule, the panel is anticipated to release an Environmental Assessment Report and make its final decision on the project around the end of 2013, though that timeline remains subject to change.

More information on the Joint Review Panel process can be found online at http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/hm-eng.html.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline Project involves the construction of two, 1,170-kilometre-long pipelines running from central Alberta to British Columbia’s coast, as well as the construction and operation of the Kitimat Marine Terminal to facilitate the transport of Canadian crude oil to the Asia-Pacific. Proponents of the project maintain the pipeline would allow Canada to no longer be land-locked into only exporting crude oil from Alberta to the United States. First Nations communities and environmental groups argue the pipeline would threaten environmentally-sensitive areas, and increase development of Alberta’s oilsands and the greenhouse gases that are produced as a result.