Draft accord on pipeline planning in the works, Canada's NEB says

A draft accord on pipeline planning through the Northwest Territories is scheduled for release by mid-October, Canada's National Energy Board said. The draft cooperation plan will be submitted for public comment prior to approval by policymakers, the NEB said.

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Aug. 27 -- A draft accord on pipeline planning through the Northwest Territories is scheduled for release by mid-October, Canada's National Energy Board said.

The Pipeline Working Group, composed of the boards and agencies responsible for assessing and regulating energy developments in the Northwest Territories, will submit a progress report to the minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in early October. The draft cooperation plan will be submitted for public comment prior to approval by policymakers, the NEB said.

Parties with an interest in the MacKenzie Valley route have met since November 2000 to coordinate the review process for northern gas development. Work is currently under way on the elements of the draft cooperation plan, including:

-- Development of a common set of information requirements for both the environmental assessment and regulatory components of the process.

-- Development of appropriate rules of procedure suitable to all boards and agencies.

-- Agreement on sharing of resources including staff, technical, and logistical support.

-- Creation of clear linkages between the environmental assessment and regulatory components of the process.

-- Development of a common public registry that will ensure enhanced public access.

Development of a blueprint for cooperation will enhance the effectiveness, transparency, and timeliness of the environmental assessment and regulatory decisionmaking process by drawing on the collective resources and experiences of the boards and agencies, NEB said.

"We are committed to making sure this process will be rigorous, comprehensive, and addresses the needs of northern people and the environment," said Frank Pope, chair of the Pipeline Working Group. "We are trying to make the process robust enough to match the size and complexity of whatever route or routes are finally decided upon."

He said the cooperative effort will ensure the legal and procedural requirements of all boards and agencies will be met in a timely manner. Canada continues to favor the MacKenzie Valley route to bringing natural gas from the northern coastlines of Alaska and Canada to market, while Alaskans have argued for an Alaskan route. Canadians have argued the MacKenzie route would be cheaper.

Taking part in creating the cooperative agreement were the National Energy Board, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, the Environmental Impact Screening Committee and the Environmental Impact Review Board for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, the Northwest Territories Water Board, the Inuvialuit Land Administration, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Sahtu Land and Water Board, the Gwich'in Land and Water Board, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

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