• Tue, Sep 06, 2011
Arctic legislators and business leaders expressed their collective support for the Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) in August at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Arctic Caucus in Yellowknife.
Hosted by GNWT Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Bob McLeod, the summit dealt with Arctic infrastructure, search and rescue, spill response capabilities, mining and development.
But, McLeod told The Journal, the biggest resolution passed was in favour of the proposed MGP to build a 1,996 km pipeline from the Beaufort Sea through the NWT to Alberta.
"We do annual capital visits to Ottawa and Washington, so PNWER will be bringing forward a resolution expressing support for the Mackenzie gas pipeline there," he said.
The proposed $16.2-billion MGP received the okay from both the GNWT and federal government in their final responses to the Joint Review Panel (JRP) report last November. The panel spent five years studying the proposal put forward by the Imperial Oil-led consortium, which includes Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.
Shell Canada pulled out of the project in June of this year, prompting McLeod to demand a signed deal from Ottawa ensuring the project could go forward by the end of 2011, lest more members of the consortium revoke their commitment.
Of the 176 recommendations made by the JRP report, both governments said they accepted the intent of "a vast majority" of those directed at them, and could eliminate or mitigate any potential adverse effects of the pipeline if it goes ahead.
But for Kevin O'Reilly of Alternatives North, a social justice coalition in the NWT campaigning against the MGP, the governments' apparent acceptance of the JRP's recommendations is misleading.
"They said they accepted the intent of the recommendations, but quite frankly that was a lie," he said. "For most responses there's been no timeline given, no talk of specific funding, specific agencies to lead action, no specific commitments. That means nothing will get done and that's just the way it works."
Alternatives North has questioned the economic viability of the MGP, which it says will need taxpayer subsidies, as well as the GNWT's ability to manage the project so that it gives back to Northerners and protects the environment.
"We wish the government would focus on real economic opportunities," said O'Reilly. "The problem is we haven't even found a way to properly distribute the benefits from diamond mining yet. We should be focusing on that instead."
So far, no fiscal agreement on the MGP has been finalized. Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told Postmedia News in July that the project was a "private sector" decision, but admitted that it had been delayed by regulatory reviews.
"If these approvals drag on, they're clearly going to undermine the economics of the project and no one ends up benefiting," Oliver said.
The PNWER Arctic Caucus was formed by legislators and members of the private sector in November, 2009 to identify commonalities among the Arctic jurisdictions of Alaska, Yukon and the NWT.