August 30, 2004

Joint panel named for Mackenzie Gas Project review

An independent, seven-member joint panel has been established to review the Mackenzie Gas Project. Federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion, Todd Burlingame, head of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, and Frank Pokiak, head of the Inuvialuit Game Council, signed a joint agreement for an environmental impact review of the Mackenzie Gas Project and issued finalized terms of reference for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the proposed project.

The finalization of these documents follows a public comment period which ended on July 15, 2004. More than 30 individuals and groups commented on draft versions of the documents. It is anticipated that the proponent will file the EIS, together with a project application, with the National Energy Board later this summer.

Robert Hornal will head the joint review panel, whose other members include: Gina Dolphus, Barry Greenland, Percy Hardisty, Rowland Harrison, Tyson Pertschy and Peter Usher. Biographical information on the panel members is available on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Web site, www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca .

The panel's mandate is to evaluate the potential impacts of the project on the environment and lives of the people in the project area. It will also work to fulfill the environmental impact assessment responsibilities of the land claims agreements, as well as federal legislation. The members' combined knowledge and experience will ensure a rigorous review of all issues of concern to northern communities and Canadians.

"The release of the Joint Review Panel Agreement and announcement of the panel members is a momentous milestone, marking many months of collaborative work," Dion said. "By agreeing to harmonize the environmental assessment processes into one that meets the requirements of all three jurisdictions, the parties have shown an unprecedented degree of co-operation on such an important undertaking," he added.

The agreement describes how a joint review panel process will harmonize the environmental assessment (EA) of the Mackenzie Gas Project by meeting the requirements of both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. It also ensures that the joint review will encompass certain unique measures related to wildlife impact assessment as contained in the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Outlined in the agreement as well are the mandate of the joint review panel, the legislative framework of the process, the scope of the review, the factors to be considered and guidelines with respect to the panel process and timelines.

The terms of reference contain guidelines for the preparation of an EIS for the proposed project. It outlines the nature and scope of the issues to be addressed by the proponent in preparing the EIS. The EIS will serve as a basis for the joint panel's review and evaluation of the potential environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts of the project.

Copies of the documents may be viewed on the Web sites of the Northern Gas Project Secretariat, www.ngps.nt.ca, and the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, www.mveirb.nt.ca, as well as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency site noted above.

More information is also available from Gordon Harris at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 613/957-0825, FAX 613/957-0946, E-mail Gordon.Harris@ceaa-acee.gc.ca; or Roland Semjanovs at the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, Yellowknife, 867/766-7051, FAX 867/766-7074, E-mail RSemjanovs@mveirb.nt.ca.

In addition, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) and the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board said last week they will provide up to $380,000 for the second phase of the participant funding program for the Mackenzie Gas Project EA. The funding will help the public prepare for and participate in technical conferences and/or provide technical analysis to the joint review panel on the adequacy of the project EIS. Applications for Phase 2 funding are due by September 27, 2004. Funding for Phase 3, which will provide for participation in the joint review process, will be announced at a future date.

A funding review committee, made up of northerners and others with considerable experience with northern-based project assessments and reviews, will consider applications and recommend allocation of funds according to criteria set out in the participant funding guidelines for the project.

More information, including the guidelines, may be found on the Agency's Web site or requested from Peter Bedrossian, manager of the participant funding program, 613/957-0254, FAX 613/957-0941, E-mail peter.bedrossian@ceaa-acee.gc.ca.

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