Time to Say NO to the Mackenzie Gas Project

The time has come for the National Energy Board (NEB) to reject the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP).A decision by the NEB on the proposed $16 billion megaproject is expected in the coming weeks.

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) that exhaustively reviewed the social and environmental impacts of the proposed project made 176 recommendations for approving the project so that it could provide a foundation for the sustainable development of the North.

The Governments of Canada and Northwest Territories, even as they claim to accept the majority of the JRP’s recommendations, are in fact rejecting the JRP’s framework for implementing the project sustainably. In their final response, the Governments’ have only accepted 11 of the 115 recommendations directed to them by the JRP and in most cases, they have not addressed the JRP’s objections to the Governments’ proposal for changing the JRP recommendations. (Actually, despite a JRP call for transparency, the interim governments’ response was never made public and the Panel’s response to it was only available on Environment Canada’s website for a limited period of time before being taken down.)

The Panel concluded that “in the absence of implementation of its Recommendations, and in particular those Recommendations directed to the Governments, the adverse impacts of the Project could be significant and its contribution towards sustainability could be negative. In that event, the opportunity for the Project to provide a foundation for a sustainable northern future would be lost.” (Emphasis in the original.)

As we said to the NEB in our 22 November 2010 letter, proceeding with the project without implementing the recommendations of the JRP would compromise a sustainable future for the North. Therefore the project is not in the public interest and the NEB must reject it.

On December 1, 2010 Nature Canada wrote again to the NEB to bring to their attention a recent event that illuminates what the governments’ claims to accept “the intent” of a recommendation might actually mean:

Panel recommendation 11-2 calls for providing areas identified as of high conservation value through the NWT Protected Areas Strategy with interim protection until permanent protection is achieved. The governments accepted “the intent” of this recommendation. How is the Canadian government following through? On October 28, 2010 the government failed to renew crucial interim subsurface protections that had been in place for over eight years on the land beneath Edéhzhíe, leaving the area open to mining claims. Edéhzhíe is one of the most revered sites of the Dehcho and Tłicho Dene communities around western Great Slave Lake, and a candidate National Wildlife Area identified through the NWT Protected Areas Strategy (Step 5) and sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

This is one of 77 important recommendations for which the governments claim to “accept the intent”. Ten recommendations that are key for the sustainability of the project were rejected.

Sustainability should be the guiding principle for this basin-opening project. It won’t be. The NEB should reject the MGP.