It's too late to oppose or support Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project at a Jan. 28 hearing in Kelowna, but you can listen to what others have to say at the Sandman Hotel.
A review panel assembled by the federal environment minister and National Energy Board will hear oral statements at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Harvey Avenue hotel.
The deadline for registering was Oct. 6, but at that time, the date, time and place for the Kelowna hearing had not been set. Organizers are now contacting those who expressed an interest, confirming those details and scheduling their presentations, a maximum of 10 minutes each.
A final list of presenters is expected to be released two or three days before the Kelowna hearing. The panel is expected to continue the afternoon session as long as necessary to hear from everyone registered.
The panel is in Victoria Jan. 4-11, and in Vancouver Jan. 14-18 and Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
The panel website - gatewaypanel.review.gc.ca - lists locations and start times for each day. Members of the public who want to watch the oral statements in Vancouver and Victoria have to go to a public viewing location for a live broadcast.
After the hearings for oral statements, the panel will resume the questioning phase of the final hearings in Prince Rupert, continuing until mid-May. Final arguments, both written and oral, will be presented mid-May to the end of June. The panel is scheduled to release its recommendation report by Dec. 31.
The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project involves the construction of two 1,170-kilometre pipelines running from Bruderheim, Alta., to Kitimat, and the construction and operation of the Kitimat Marine Terminal.
The panel will assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and review the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act.
The hearings continue against the backdrop of a UBC Fisheries Centre study that concluded the financial costs of a worst-case scenario tanker spill off the north coast of British Columbia could outweigh the economic rewards for the region.
The study, funded by World Wildlife Fund Canada, looked at the potential losses to commercial fisheries, tourism, aquaculture and port activities in the area in the event of a tanker accident.
"The study highlights that if a tanker spill occurs, the economic gains from the Enbridge Northern Gateway project to the North Coast region would be wiped out by the costs of the spill," said Rashid Sumaila, director of the fisheries centre.
Total losses due to oil contamination could range from $90 million to $300 million.
That compares to total economic benefits from the project for the region of $628 million in direct output, up to 8,000 jobs and $293 million in GDP.
Overall, the project is expected to boost Canada's GDP by $270 billion over 30 years, with $2.6 billion in tax revenues for local, provincial and the federal governments, and to generate $81 billion in direct and indirect revenues to the federal and provincial governments.
Northern Gateway officials say the WWF study was deeply flawed.
- With files from The Canadian Press