National Energy Board Rejects Joint Review Panel's Sustainability Approach for the Mackenzie Gas Project
March 12, 2010 (Ottawa) –This week, the National Energy Board (NEB) released its response to the recommendations from the Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project. Nature Canada is deeply concerned that the NEB's proposed modifications to the Panel's recommendations would allow the construction of the pipeline without first putting in place necessary safeguards to ensure the region's wildlife and habitat are protected.
In a report issued December 31, 2009, the Joint Review Panel (JRP) concluded that the project could be environmentally sustainable only if all 176 of the Panel's recommendations were fully implemented. Despite this, the NEB is not considering a number of the Panel's recommendations. The NEB has in fact rejected several recommendations that address ways to mitigate the cumulative effects of this pipeline project, and future projects.
By rejecting these important recommendations, the NEB is showing a disregard for the aspirations of sustainability expressed by First Nations and other northerners, as captured in the JRP report.
Roughly ninety of the Panel's 176 recommendations require action by the federal government, and roughly fifty more require action by the Northwest Territories government. If governments fail to implement the recommendations directed to them, the overall net impact of the Mackenzie Gas Project would surely be negative for the region's wildlife.
Nature Canada's view is that the NEB should obtain firm, funded commitments from the federal and territorial governments to implement the recommendations of the Panel before approving licenses for the project. The NEB has not indicated they will do this. In fact, the NEB did not even comment on the recommendations directed to the federal and territorial governments and is proposing to disregard others related to cumulative effects and further development as being beyond the scope of the project or outside its jurisdiction. For example, the Panel recommended that no expansion of the project be authorized until the Dehcho and Sahtu land use plans are completed and approved. It also recommended that governments ensure full implementation of the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy and that community conservation areas be legally protected in the delta region before breaking ground on the MGP.
Despite the NEB disregard of the Panel's integral approach to sustainability, the federal and territorial governments should accept the Panel's recommendations and commit the necessary resources for their full implementation, if the governments support the approval of the project.
The NEB is also proposing to modify important JRP recommendations affecting the region's sole federal protected area, Kendall Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. In particular, the NEB has proposed less stringent noise emissions limits from those suggested by the Panel. It has also ignored calls to ensure specific regulations are put in place to protect the sanctuary.
We will continue to closely monitor this process, to call on governments to ensure the Mackenzie Gas Project is not approved irresponsibly and to raise awareness about the potential threat migratory birds and other wildlife face in this still mostly pristine region.