by Forest Ethics | Tuesday Nov 27, 2012:
Given the opportunity to shed light on its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project at the NEB’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings currently taking place in Prince George, Enbridge lawyer Laura Estep chose instead to focus on ForestEthics Advocacy’s use of the media, campaigning and previous questions directed to Enbridge.
“This is an emotionally charged project. Living in Smithers, people are definitely in fear of losing our healthy salmon watersheds,” ForestEthics Advocacy senior energy campaigner Nikki Skuce told the panel and a full house at the hearings.
Estep asked Skuce if she considers herself a lobbyist; when Skuce responded that she did not, Estep then pressed Skuce on whether she was familiar with the rules of lobbying and if it is a legitimate practice.
“I think it is. There are definitely different levels of access. Someone like Enbridge has met 145 times since July 2008 with government officials while we’ve struggled to access meetings with conservative federal government officials on the couple of trips we’ve made to Ottawa,” Skuce told the Joint Review Panel.
Previously, ForestEthics Advocacy counsel Tim Leadem questioned Enbridge about the company’s lobbying of the federal government to relax environmental protection laws. As Enbridge has continually asked for the public’s trust as it continues to develop its pipeline plans, Leadem noted that it was important to know whether Enbridge is lobbying the federal government to change its environmental regulations.
When asked about her public statements decrying the federal government’s changes to the Fisheries Act, Skuce said, “We think that a number of the changes that happened in Bill C-38 were efforts to try and make the building of pipelines such as Enbridge Northern Gateway easier.
“I don’t have any direct evidence because I don’t have the ear of the prime minister or have word from Minister Oliver about his sphere of influence, but lobbying by Enbridge, CEPA and others appear to have been effective,” she added.
Enbridge also questioned ForestEthics Advocacy about a sign-up page on its website for participating in the hearings.
“As interveners in this process we think it’s important to have strong public participation,” Skuce said, further responding that the website also helped those in support of the process: “In terms of the written comments … Ethical Oil encouraged their members to submit letters through our website and ForestEthics submitted everything that came though regardless of their position.”
Once questions around advocacy and media wrapped up, Estep focused her cross-examination on Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) report on corrosivity of diluted bitumen. Northern Gateway put forward reports by Alberta Innovates and others that come to different conclusions. However, Anthony Swift of NRDC summed up that all these reports use different baselines (eg. for definition of conventional crude), temperatures and internal versus external corrosion. He maintained his conclusion that due to increases in volumes of dilBit being transported, that more comprehensive studies need to be done on the risks associated with tar sands through pipelines.
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