Enbridge Northern Gateway president John Carruthers is perplexed at the stance the B.C. provincial government is taking on his company's pipeline plans.
Provincial Environment Minister Terry Lake issued a news release Wednesday evening criticizing the Calgary-based company's answers so far at the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel hearings. Carruthers said Enbridge has been providing detailed information throughout the environmental review process for the proposed Alberta oilsands to Kitimat pipeline.
"It does bother you that why is this going on at this stage where there's been a very thorough process going on," Carruthers said Thursday during a break in the third day of hearings in Prince George.
In his news release, Lake said the province hasn't been satisfied to date with the answers it's received from the company. Specifically, Lake was upset that on many issues, Enbridge deferred to its final detailed engineering phase, which could occur after the pipeline has received regulatory approval.
Carruthers said the province and other interveners have put the company in a box. On one hand, they're looking for detailed answers to questions, on the other they want the company to be open to changing its plans as new evidence is presented.
"People want final answers yet this whole process is one where we respond to concerns of people and that results in modifications to the pipeline," Carruthers said.
Among the modifications proposed during Thursday's hearings was re-routing the pipeline in the Maurice River area. Enbridge engineering manager Ray Doering said a revised route will soon be filed with the Joint Review Panel.
The provincial government and Enbridge haven't had a recent meeting, but Carruthers said he'd be opening to talking to Premier Christy Clark about her government's concerns.
The province will have more time to ask Enbridge questions when the next witness panel, which deals with pipeline operations, sits next week. Despite the fact the province was told some of its questions earlier this week would be better directed to the third Enbridge witness panel, a lawyer for the province confirmed Thursday the government won't have any questions for that panel.
Tim Leadem, a lawyer for a coalition of environmental groups, had his turn in to quiz Enbridge during the middle of Thursday's hearings and ended his questioning with a flourish of forceful statements. He pointed to regulatory violations a contractor for Enbridge racked up during construction of a pipeline in Wisconsin and asked how the company could be trusted to meet its commitments with Northern Gateway.
"I can't believe they [Wisconsin residents] were told in advance, 'We're going to build a pipeline and we're going to foul your wetlands,' " said Leadem, who represents ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Enbridge senior manager strategic safety and construction management Tom Fiddler contended the wetlands weren't fouled, but conceded that some material wasn't cleaned up in a timely fashion. Doering added that it will be up to the Joint Review Panel to make the final determination.
Thursday's questioning concluded with the Haisla Nation asking their first two of an anticipated 12 hours of questioning for the panel. Lawyer Jesse McCormick used the start of his time to address risk management issues on the pipeline and has been the most forceful of any of the examiners so far in challenging the witness panel to follow up on their answers.
The Haisla Nation is expected to use up all of Friday's proceedings as well. The JRP will also sit for a morning session on Saturday at the Columbus Community Centre.