May 17, 2004

Regulatory agencies complete preparatory steps toward Northern gas project review

Several steps in the review process of the planned Mackenzie gas project have been completed recently, reflecting a commitment by the Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Chairs (EARC) to conclude their work in as timely a manner as possible. Following the EARC's latest meeting, its executive committee reported that the Regulators' Agreement has been signed, participant funding for the environmental review of the project has been announced, and a decision made concerning referral of the proposed project to a joint review panel by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. The Regulators' Agreement outlines commitments by various regulatory bodies to co-ordinate their respective processes.

"We are keeping a steady course as planned and there is no need to adjust our timelines," said National Energy Board Chairman Ken Vollman, speaking on behalf of the Chairs' committee. "We will be ready to receive an application on the Mackenzie Gas Project this summer."

In addition to reviewing progress, the EARC officially opened the office of the Northern Gas Project Secretariat during their meeting in Inuvik. The Secretariat's mandate is to ensure easy, efficient public access to information about the Northern Gas Project environmental assessment, and to co-ordinate public participation in the review process. The EARC represents the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, the NWT Water Board, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Energy Board.

The next steps to be completed over the coming weeks include:

completing a final draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) terms of reference and releasing it for public comment by June 1;

completing the final draft Agreement for an Environmental Impact Review of a Northern Gas Project (known as the Joint Review Panel Agreement) and releasing it for public comment, also by June 1;

nominating members for appointment to the seven-member Joint Review Panel by the end of June; and

finalizing the Joint Review Panel Agreement and Terms of Reference by early July.

The EARC's next meeting is expected to take place in Yellowknife in June. More information is available from Annette Bourgeois at the Northern Gas Project Secretariat, 867/766-8602, FAX 867/766-8624, E-mail abourgeois@ngps.nt.ca, Web site www.ngps.nt.ca.

As noted, the federal government has indicated that it will provide up to $1.5 million in participant funding, enabling individuals and organizations to take part in the environmental assessment of the Mackenzie Gas Project by a joint review panel.

The funding will be released in three stages: Phase I will provide up to $120,000 to help the public review and comment on draft terms of reference for the EIS, which should be ready by June 1. The funds will be released at that time. Applications for Phase I funding are due by May 19, 2004. Funding for Phase 2 and 3 will be announced at a future date.

Details on filing applications, the eligibility criteria, and other related information are available from Peter Bedrossian, manager of the participant funding program, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 613/957-0254, FAX 613/957-0941, E-mail peter.bedrossian@ceaa-acee.gc.ca, or on the Agency's Web site, www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca. Information is also available on the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board's Web site, www.mveirb.nt.ca, or the Northern Gas Project Secretariat (NGPS) Web site, www.ngps.nt.ca.

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