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Pipeline hearings back in town

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Nov 17/06) - The Joint Review Panel (JRP) is back in town this week for more hearings, but have postponed one topic due to a recent court decision.

On Nov. 10, Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan made a ruling that would halt all JRP hearings until matters are settled with an aboriginal group from northern Alberta.

The pipeline will terminate on land owned by the Dene Tha First Nation in Alberta, and the Dene Tha filed a case arguing they have been left out of the pipeline hearing process.

Since the court ruling stated that no hearings could take place that affected the Dene Tha region in Alberta, or any facilities in the lower NWT, the JRP was forced to re-evaluate its hearing schedule.

"Other groups are now being consulted about how to proceed with hearings, including the Dene Tha," said Brian Chambers, executive director for the Northern Gas Project Secretariat, a body that assists in the public hearings by providing information to the public.

In its letter to the proponents and intervenors of the project dated Nov. 11, the JRP stated their hearings in Inuvik about the Kendall Island bird sanctuary only affected the northern region of the project.

Chambers said the hearings this week will address these environmental impacts of the Mackenzie Gas Project.

"If the project is to proceed, we need to discuss the effects on the Kendall Island bird sanctuary," said Chambers.

One topic that has been postponed is the matter of harvesting and other land use.

The JRP decided the harvesting topic would be discussed in many different regions, so it would need to be postponed in accordance with the court ruling.

While the JRP hearings are in limbo as of press time, Chambers said the National Energy Board will be in Inuvik for the next month holding hearings of its own.

"The NEB will also be travelling to nearby communities in the next few weeks," said Chambers.