Independent Panel Finds Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Environmentally Acceptable

February 2011, Vol. 238 No. 2

On Dec. 30 Canada’s Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline project received the stamp of approval from an independent panel charged with considering the environmental, social and economic impacts of the proposed 1,200-km line on the Northwest Territories.

In a statement of conditional support for the massive project, the joint review panel for the Mackenzie project said the region’s future would be better served with the $16 billion pipeline and associated development than without.

“The panel is confident that the project as filed, if built and operated with full implementation of the panel’s recommendations, would deliver valuable and lasting overall benefits, and avoid significant adverse environmental impacts,” the panel said in a news release.

The long-awaited news from the panel was reportedly received with muted enthusiasm from project stakeholders, which include Imperial Oil Ltd., ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil Corp. and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

As proposed the pipeline would ship up to 1.9 Bcf/d of natural gas from the edge of the Beaufort Sea to Alberta. The consortium filed an application for the project with the National Energy Board in February 2004 and the review panel was launched two years later.

The panel made 176 recommendations in directing the federal government to “engage in the activities and commit the funding required to implement things it has already committed to do.”

In January, Ottawa announced it was offering a fiscal framework supporting the project, including support for infrastructure projects, but has not disclosed details. The National Energy Board will conduct a final hearing on the project in April and release its decision in September.

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