Pipeline plans defended on last day of hearings

The provincial government's demand that Northern Gateway conduct full-scale unannounced marine emergency response drills is not practical, the pipeline company said in its final argument on Monday.

Northern Gateway lawyer Richard Neufeld told the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel that the number of people that need to be mobilized for a full-scale drill makes them difficult to co-ordinate logistically. He said it would be unfair to mobilize so many provincial and federal officials with no advance warning.

"[The full-scale drills are] beyond industry best practice," Neufeld said, noting that the company supports having unannounced drills for elements of its response plan.

B.C.'s chief legal strategist Geoff Plant said last week that the drills are necessary because at this point in time the province isn't sure if the plans the pipeline company has announced are feasible.

"The general concern all along has been that a lot of what has been put forward by Northern Gateway as evidence of their spill response capacity is more like plans than actual programs and some of the questions asked today is we actually wanted to test drive spill response plans to make sure they actually work," Plant said.

Twice during his final argument, Neufeld called on provincial officials to get together with the federal government and industry so the three groups can get on the same page regarding what's needed to make the marine response "world class."

Neufeld broke his nearly two-hour final argument into four themes: economic need for the pipeline; respect; the need for good science and balancing the public interest with regional effects.

He said the construction phase will generate 62,000 person years of employment and disputed claims by the Alberta Federation of Labour that those jobs were inconsequential in the long run.

"Those jobs will do more than provide a paycheque," Neufeld said. "It will provide income, enduring skills and more than that, hope."

In his section on respect, Neufeld said it was unfair that intervener groups had called Northern Gateway "dismissive, insulting and arrogant" during their final argument. Yet at the same time he consistently failed to identify Skeena-Bulkey Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen by name, referring to the pipeline opponent as "the politician who called in from Ottawa" on more than one occassion. Neufeld named all other interveners directly.

The good science category was taken up by rebuttals on the fate of diluted bitumen in water, the threat posed by geohazards along the proposed right of way and the effects of routine marine operations on wildlife.

"The Internet is full of publications not supported by science," Neufeld said.

In his final section, Neufeld took on the request made by some intervener groups that Northern Gateway use tougher pipe and apply multi-layer coatings to reduce the risk of a rupture.

Neufeld said the company is sticking to its plan to use category one pipe for most of the route and category two on certain areas where it's required. He didn't mention category three pipe at all.

Earlier Monday, Prince George engineer Chris Peter told the panel that Northern Gateway is saying one thing in its filing and saying something different to the media when Ray Doering, the company's manager of engineering, speculated to the Citizen last week that category three pipe is being considered.

"Would a trial lawyer be able to try his case in the press without making the same case in court?" Peter asked.

The three members of the panel, Hans Matthews, Kenneth Bateman and chairwoman Sheila Leggett concluded the hearings by offering their thanks to everyone who participated in the process.

"Everyone has worked to provide the panel with the best evidence possible and we thank you for that," Leggett said.

They will begin their deliberations shortly and provide recommendations to the federal cabinet by the end of the year.

The Prince George Citizen, Wednesday, June 27, 2013
Byline: Peter James

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