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Pipeline review may begin again

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 17/06) - A federal court judge has suggested the Joint Review Panel (JRP) assessing social, economic and environmental impacts of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project could be re-started.

It was one of Justice Michael Phelan's possible remedies in his ruling that the federal government and its ministers "breached their duty to consult the Dene Tha' in the creation of the (Mackenzie pipeline's) regulatory and environmental review process."

The Dene Tha, who filed their suit in May 2005, represent approximately 2,500 people in northern Alberta.

According to the Dene Tha First Nation, it was not officially informed about the pipeline until January 2005 and by filing the lawsuit they hoped for a full consultation on what the project will mean for their land.

The prospect of another review panel would further delay construction of the 1,220 kilometre pipeline. This comes after the JRP extended its own hearing schedule by four months and lead proponent Imperial Oil's revised cost analysis, expected by year's end, has been put off until 2007.

In spite of Phalen's order that JRP hearings be stayed, the panel has decided to move forward with its Nov. 15 and 16 hearings in Inuvik as it is the second in a series of "Bird and Bird Habitat" hearings which began Aug. 23. However, hearings scheduled for Inuvik Nov. 17 have been postponed and, according to a letter written by JRP chair Robert Hornal, "(The JRP) will release details regarding the remainder of its schedule at a later date."