Today marks the first day of hearings of the Joint Review Panel tasked with assessing the environmental impacts of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. An oil industry front group and the federal government wasted no time ...
Today marks the first day of hearings of the Joint Review Panel tasked with assessing the environmental impacts of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. An oil industry front group and the federal government wasted no time in trying to undermine the process by smearing those who want to voice objection to the project. Central to their attack has been that the allegation that radical environmental groups want to hijack our regulatory system using funding from foreign sources.
What the pipeline pushers have failed to do is provide any real break down of who exactly is involved in the hearings. So, let’s try to get to the bottom of this.
There are different levels of participation open to the public in this type of process. The most intensive involvement is to become an intervenor. Intervenors are allowed to submit written and oral evidence, submit written questions and question the company, Enbridge, as well as other intervenors. In other words, intervenor status gives a group or individual quasi-legal standing in the process.
The official public registry lists 216 intervenors, including businesses, First Nations, non-governmental organizations and others. A breakdown of the main groups is as follows:
· 26 B.C. First Nations groups
· 14 Alberta First Nations
· 18 organizations in B.C. with an interest in environmental and land issues
· 16 oil companies, 10 of which are headquartered in foreign countries (US, China, Japan, Korea, France, UK)
· 4 oil industry lobby groups
While there are 10 foreign oil companies registered as intervenors, there is not a single environmental organizations from outside the country on the list. In fact, most if not all are B.C.-based organizations including many from northern B.C.
Short of becoming a full-fledged intervenor, individuals and organizations can request to make a ten-minute oral presentation to the joint review panel. Much noise has been made about the 4,522 people who have registered in this category, more than any other process in Canada.
A search of the registry indicates that 3,587 of these people, or 79% of the total, are from British Columbia. A search for United States turns up less than 20 people. These are rough numbers because the search may not turn up registrants by location with 100% accuracy, but at a broad level, it’s clear that the vast majority of people signed up to make presentation are from B.C. And, again, these are people who want 10 minutes or less to voice their opinions on this issue of national importance. That hardly constitutes hijacking a process.
What this shows is that a move to squash the regulatory review of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will only serve the interests big multinational oil companies at the expense of a process that, while not perfect, is at least open to public involvement.