March 22, 2004

Next steps set out for EA, regulatory review of proposed Mackenzie gas project

The next steps in a process to review the proposed Mackenzie gas project have been determined, following the latest meeting of the Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Chairs' executive committee. The next steps reflect commitments set out in the Co-operation Plan for the Environmental Impact Assessment and Regulatory Review of a Northern Gas Project through the Northwest Territories. The plan was made public in June 2002.

"By confirming established timelines now to process an application, the committee members are setting a firm foundation to meet expectations for a thorough, timely and transparent processing of an application once it is filed," said NEB chairman Ken Vollman, speaking on behalf of the Chairs' committee.

The group's members represent the Inuvialuit Game Council, Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, NWT Water Board, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the National Energy Board (NEB). They meet regularly to share information and ensure that decisions within their mandates are made in a timely and co-ordinated manner.

The next steps, with anticipated scheduling, are as follows.

*By early April, details will be released on the participant funding program for the Joint Review Panel; by the end of April, a committee will be set up to review the funding applications.

*In early April as well, the Inuvik office of the Northern Gas Project Secretariat will be opened.

* By the end of April, a Regulators' Agreement will be finalized, outlining commitments by various regulatory bodies to co-ordinate their respective processes.

*The Chairs have agreed to support the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board's commitment to finalize its Phase One Environmental Assessment and make a decision on a Joint Review Panel referral by May 21.

*By June 1, a final draft Environmental Impact Statement Terms of Reference will be completed and released for public comment.

*Also by June 1, the final draft Agreement for an Environmental Impact Review of a Northern Gas Project (known as the Joint Review Panel Agreement) will be completed and released for public comment.

*Members will be appointed to the Joint Review Panel by the end of June. The panel would be an independent body of seven people appointed as set out in the Co-operation Plan.

*The Joint Review Panel Agreement and Terms of Reference will be finalized by early July.

"The Chairs' commitments will ensure that the various boards and agencies are prepared to process an application by July," said Brian Chambers, executive director of the Northern Gas Project Secretariat. The Chairs expect to meet again in Inuvik in April.

The Northern Gas Project Secretariat was established to facilitate public access to information about the environmental assessment and regulatory review of the Mackenzie Gas Project, and to co-ordinate public involvement. More information is available from Annette Bourgeois at the Secretariat, 867/766-8602, FAX 867/766-8624, E-mail, Web site

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