MEDIA BACKGROUNDER: Sierra Club Canada submits to National Energy Board its official response to the Joint Review Panel report on the Mackenzie Gas Project

WHAT: February 11th marks the deadline for interveners in the Mackenzie Gas Project National Energy Board hearings to respond to the recommendations made by the Joint Review Panel report released December 30th, 2009.

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With 176 recommendations pointing to varying levels of readiness by both the proponent and the government bodies overseeing and preparing for development, it is highly questionable that the Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) will contribute to sustainability or avoid significant adverse impacts. Sierra Club Canada (SCC) is concerned that without full implementation of the Joint Review Panel’s (JRP’s) recommendations, as the JRP itself notes numerous times, that significant adverse impacts will result to ecosystems and communities upstream, and that the project will help continue an unsustainable pattern of fossil fuel use downstream.
SCC therefore strongly disagrees with the Proponents’ call in its comments on the JRP recommendations for many of those recommendations to be rejected. Instead, SCC calls for them to be strengthened. For example, SCC calls on the National Energy Board (NEB) to ensure all appropriate JRP recommendations are satisfactorily implemented before each stage of the project or induced development proceeds– only then can the NEB have confidence that the project will be in the public interest.


• All JRP recommendations must be implemented, including ones to governments: Throughout the JRP report the panel recommended in several places the need to take the recommendations as a package and not pick and choose implementation. It was the position of the JRP, and one which we fully agree, that ALL recommendations would need to be implemented before the project could be deemed sustainable, and therefore in the public interest.
• The NEB should not approve next steps in the Mackenzie Gas project until recommendations, including those from government, have been sufficiently implemented: Given the scope and detail in the necessary activity required to prepare the region, communities and ecosystems for the projects impact, it would be unsustainable to approve the project in its entirety until such time as recommendations and actions are implemented.
• JRP was correct in its assessment of end-use of gas and that it is key to sustainability: Sierra fully supports the JRPs recommendation around the inclusion of end-use gas as a contributor to the projects overall sustainability. We fully support the recommendations around preferential use of gas and put forward that this recommendation is essential in ensuring the sustainability of the project. We propose to the NEB that these recommendations are adequately implemented before the project starts delivering gas.
• SCC furthermore recommends that the NEB require the government of Canada to commit a portion of its revenues from the MGP to funding the transition to a low-carbon future, especially for activities in the North.
• JRP erred in its approach to determining ‘significance’ of GHG emissions of the project: We contend that an appropriate analysis would not draw a conclusion based on the projects GHG contribution as compared to total Global emissions (ie. 0.1% of Global Greenhouse Gas emissions). Rather, it is the purpose of cumulative effects assessments to stop all of the increments before they add up to something significant. Greenhouse gas emissions are already significant in Canada, this project adds to already significant levels of greenhouse gases thus it is inherently significant. We further propose that an appropriate test for significance would be to measure the increase in GHG emissions resulting from the project to the decreased needed to meet Canada’s international legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Based on this analysis, the Project could move Canada approximately 7.6% to 15.7% in the wrong direction compared to what is needed to close the ‘Kyoto gap.’ We submit these increases are highly significant.
• Evidence from the JRP report suggests that the environmental assessment requirements in relation to species at risk have not been completed, and the project should therefore not be approved by the NEB until they have been;
• We strongly support the JRP’s Chapter 11 emphasis on the need for a network of protected areas, including immediate interim withdrawal of potential protected areas, together with approved and binding land use plans and Community Conservation Plans that include thresholds though suggest that there is addition need for the NEB to provide safeguards in case governments are not able to effectively implement the JRP recommendations aimed at them in a timely manner.