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Green leader concerned about gas ownership

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 08/06) - Green Party leader Elizabeth May spoke about possible negative results from a proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline during regulatory hearings in Inuvik last week.

May was in town to testify before the National Energy Board (NEB) on behalf of the Sierra Club of Canada, whom she used to represent.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Federal leader of the Green Party of Canada Elizabeth May was in Inuvik last week to testify before the National Energy Board on behalf of her former employer, the Sierra Club of Canada. May also spent some time speaking with local environmentalists. - Dez Loreen/NNSL photo

"If the (natural) gas was used to fight greenhouse gases, it would be easier to give the project the go-ahead," she said. "Our concern is that the biggest market for Mackenzie gas is the Athabasca tar sands."

May said that hypothetically, the tar sands could use all of the gas found in the Mackenzie gas fields. She also acknowledged that natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels in Canada, better than oil and coal.

"The concern about end use is fundamental because if this gas was going to shut down the coal fire plants there would at least be an unquestioned good that came from it," she reasoned. "At least then, there might be an excuse for disrupting the environment.

"There are also environmental issues, like caribou migration patterns, fish in the rivers and disruption to the social environment," she said.

During the NEB hearings, evidence from the Sierra Club of Canada was submitted as attachments to a sworn affidavit that May made last year.

"Since it was a personal statement, it couldn't just be passed on to the next executive of the Sierra Club," explained May, who served as the organization's director for 17 years, during which she worked to create awareness of climate change and what she calls 'the climate crisis.'

In order to defend the evidence, she said she had to be in town for the hearings in person.

"This visit wasn't a Green Party mission," she said. "It was to make sure that the submitted evidence would remain on the record."

May wants the people of the region to be aware that the pipeline is still a choice.

"There is a sense of inevitability to this pipeline," she said.

"People should be thinking about that. It's not too late to ask if the people want a pipeline or not."

While in Inuvik, she spent some time talking with fellow Green Party members and even managed to convert a few other residents.

"People here might think I'm just a southerner and have no business talking about the pipeline and all, but it's a national crisis," said May. "Climate change is the biggest threat to my daughter and my family."

It wasn't her first trip to the region. She was on an excursion to Ivvavik National Park in July.

May said that if people in the region are still opposed to the construction of the pipeline, they can still speak up.

"It is not too late to tell the biggest company in the world, Imperial Oil, that you don't want this here," she said. "Imperial Oil has a lot to answer to, as lead proponent in the project."