Enbridge Pipelines vehicles are seen during a half-day oil spill training exercise in Edmonton on Sept 12, 2012.
Credits: IAN KUCERAK/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
EDMONTON -- Enbridge’s list of supportive aboriginal groups will stay secret for now.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel meeting in Edmonton ruled Friday that the Northern Gateway pipeline company doesn’t have to give up to the Coastal First Nations a list of First Nations groups signed on to the project.
Enbridge said it has 60% buy-in among groups within 80 km of either side of the 1,177-km pipeline route, but those names are covered by legal confidentiality clauses.
Vancouver-based attorney Brenda Gaertner said her clients, a group of First Nations from the B.C. coast, demanded the information.
“Madame Chair, you can only imagine that I’ve been instructed to ask this question,” she said.
“There’s no lack of respect for the First Nations that have signed this ... It’s a matter of significant importance (to the review).”
Enbridge’s assertion of 60% support “is not consistent with my client’s understanding and the only way we can test that evidence is to know who he has support from,” Gaertner said.
An Enbridge attorney objected to Gaertner’s request out of respect for the confidentiality of the First Nations involved. The confidentiality clause was made at their request, not Northern Gateway’s, he said.
The panel said the list isn’t relevant to this leg of the review, with the designated issue being the economic need for the pipeline and its potential impacts on commercial interests, financial and tolling matter.
“The panel does not see a need for the list for our purpose at this point,” chair Sheila Leggett said.
Gaertner and Enbridge agreed on some elements of the project’s risks and rewards. For B.C., the pipeline would mean $8.6 billion over the construction and operation of the line, and a historical share of federal government revenues estimated at $6.6 billion, bringing B.C.’s share in the project to $15.2 billion.
On the risk side, the panel heard testimony from Dr. Jack Ruitenbeek about the likelihood of some kind of spill event -- large or small -- over the first 50 years of the pipeline.
Regardless of the source of a spill event -- tanker, rupture or terminal -- or its size, the overall risk calculates at just over 70%.
Gaertner cited B.C. government figures that B.C. would shoulder 100% of the marine disaster risk and 52% of the land disaster risk for the pipeline.
She also raised the potential for conflict that could continue and wreak havoc with Enbridge’s reputation long after regulatory approval has been given for the project, citing B.C.’s “long history” of conflict over such projects.
She pushed repeatedly for Enbridge’s commitment to “respect” Coastal First Nations groups if they say no to the project. Enbridge spokesman John Carruthers said he would respect them, but will also mind the review board and the Canadian government, allowing an independent body to determine the benefit for all Canadians.
Carruthers said Enbridge will continue the dialogue among those opposed to the project in order to gain more consensus, even if the project is approved.
The hearings resume from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and then again on Monday until Sept. 28.
Final hearings will be held in Prince George, B.C., from Oct. 9 to Nov. 9 and Prince Rupert, B.C., from Nov. 22 to Dec. 18.