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Imperial seeks hearing delay

Andrea Markey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 18/05) - Imperial Oil representatives say it is not ready to move ahead with public hearings on the Mackenzie Gas Project.

It was responding to a request for information from the National Energy Board, which was inquiring about the company's preparedness for public hearings in early fall.

"We feel there are a number of outstanding issues and are working hard to address them," said Hart Searle, a spokesperson with Imperial Oil.

The Aboriginal Pipeline Group can understand this.

"They want to do it right so there's no point in going to hearings if you don't have all the pieces," says chairperson Fred Carmichael.

Specifically, work on benefit and access agreements with aboriginal groups and agreements on education continues, Searle says.

"We were starting to get requests for funding from aboriginal groups that we feel are beyond our responsibility," he said. "We also need to be more comfortable with the regulatory process in the North."

While there is sufficient information on the public registry to move ahead, more time is needed to work through the material, he said.

"We are close to issuing benefits and access agreements to some aboriginal groups," he said. "But we are not at the point where we have seen enough tangible outcomes, so far."

Delay OK

If a delay is needed to ensure a proper hearing process, then a couple more months of preparation is fine, said Inuvik Mayor Peter Clarkson.

"If it drags on too long, people will start to wonder when it will happen," he said. "November will be reasonable."

Last week, the Dehcho First Nations signed a $31.5 million agreement with the federal government to end litigation against Canada in regards to the pipeline.

That money included $6 million for participation in the environmental and regulatory review process for the Mackenzie Gas Project.

- with files from Jason Unrau