The District of Fort St. James plans to reiterate its opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline when National Energy Board hearings reach the final argument stage.
Fort St. James Mayor Rob MacDougall said the district will submit a written submission to the Joint Review Panel restating its opposition to the plan to transport Alberta oilsands products to Kitimat via a pipeline that would pass just south of the community.
The final arguments will be held in Terrace, with written submissions due in May and oral statements set for June. MacDougall said the municipality won't take part in the latter stage because it will be difficult to schedule, but some members of the anti-pipeline Fort St. James Sustainability Group may choose to attend and speak.
"It's very onerous to go and sit and have to wait to talk," MacDougall said. "For mayor and council it's so time consuming and costly to go. . . . We have a finite budget here so I think we will submit a written statement voicing our opposition one more time."
Fort St. James has been one of the more vocal communities in the process, with council passing a resolution in July that it was against the $6.5 billion project because of the risks it could pose to the environment in the event of a spill. The community is close to the proposed route and a pumping station is planned not far from the airport.
"It might be a little bit selfish but at the end of the day this is our community and if you look across the lake and you look at the homes people have their lifetime investments in and you don't want to see anything happen," he said. "We just don't feel it's right."
The questioning phase of the hearings are continuing in Prince Rupert this week and will likely carry on until May. After the final arguments in June, the panel will consider everything it has heard during the environmental review process and issue recommendations to the federal government by the end of the year.
MacDougall said it's difficult to say whether the project will eventually proceed. He said there is pressure to reap the economic benefits of the project, but noted there's an uncertain future for it politically in B.C.
"Can we stop it if the federal government wants it? I don't know," he said, noting First Nations groups will also have a say in the final outcome. "We'll continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and oppose it here locally and hope at the end of the day it won't go through."