The Mackenzie Gas Pipeline
Regulation of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline

Introduction

Polar Bears Photo by Peter Blanken.

The Mackenzie Gas Pipeline falls under the authority of 11 regulatory bodies. These bodies range from the National Energy Board, which coordinates energy projects throughout Canada, to local environmental impact committees in each of the settlement areas. Given the breadth of overlapping regulatory authority, projects such as the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline have a particularly complicated review process. This page will briefly go through the key provisions the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline must meet, and the various stages of review. The information presented here is subject to change, but does reflect the process that the pipeline is currently expected to undergo. Environmental review must follow several applicable Canadian laws, principally the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA), and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA).

Oil and Gas Development in General

The various review and assessment programs have some pieces in common. All require a great deal of public consultation. That consultation can take many forms, from mailings and advertisement to public hearings and meetings with specific community groups. The government expects applicants to show how they've addressed public concerns in their proposals.

To begin the process, and applicant must perform a Comprehensive Study Report (CSR) that reviews the social and environmental impacts of the proposed project. The CSR is forwarded to a panel review by the Ministry of Environment. Concurrent with that review, the Minister of Environment begins a public comment period and National Energy Board (NEB) holds public hearings on the proposal. After the panel review and various public forums are completed, the NEB makes a final decision on the project that is ratified by the Governor General.

In areas included in land settlements with the First Nations, several approval processes take place in addition to those listed above. The Inuvialuit, Sahtu, and Gwich'in all have processes to grant land use permits. These processes usually require consultation with a local community committee throughout the planning and operation of any development. Without a permit, no development can take place in these areas. Furthermore, the CSR is referred to an Environmental Impact Screening Committee, which decides if further study is warranted. If so, an Environmental Review Board is created to assess the project and impose conditions on it's construction.

Mackenzie Pipeline Regulatory Process

Mackenzie Valley Regulatory Agencies


In order to streamline the assessment and review process for the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline, the various regulatory agencies created a Cooperative Plan. The cooperation plan divides the process into four phases: preparation, preliminary information package, hearings, and completion of regulatory process.

Preparation

The preparation phase of the cooperative plan involved formalizing the cooperative plan and creating the consolidated information requirements (CIR) of agencies involved in the pipeline assessment.

Preliminary Information Package

In order to begin review of the pipeline, the proponents must complete a Preliminary Information Package (PIP). The PIP includes the details of the proposed pipeline's backers, the pipeline's location, and schedule for regulatory filings. In addition, the PIP includes design information on the pipeline and its ancillary structures as well as a summary of the expected environmental impacts, and social, cultural, and economic components the pipeline will affect. The PIP should outline the key benefits and issues affecting design and construction of the project.

Regulatory review begins once the proponents have submitted the PIP. The staff of each regulatory agency reviews the PIP for conformity with the guidelines listed above. If the PIP does not meet those guidelines, the staff can request that the pipeline proponents provide further details. If the agencies find the PIP sufficient, several review processes begin. The NEB will consult with all other agencies before submitting the PIP for panel review by the Ministry of Environment. In addition, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board will begin its own environmental assessment, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment.

Hearings

Pipeline 
Construction photo. Photo from Northwest Territories, Resources, Wildlife, and Economic Development.

During this phase of approval, the regulatory agencies will complete their application reviews. Requests for more information from the proponents will be coordinated by a central authority in order to avoid duplication. Public hearings will also be conducted by all the regulating authorities. The joint environmental impact report will be completed during this phase, and reported to the agencies.

Completion of Regulatory Process

With the conclusion of the environmental impact report and public hearings, the NEB and other regulating authorities will review the report and complete their assessment proceedings. If the applications are approved, the regulating authorities will impose whatever conditions they deem necessary. Finally, the NEB will issue a final report, Reasons for Decision, on the proposal and permits and licenses from the regulating authorities will be granted and construction of the pipeline may begin.

Final Notes

For more information, specific guidelines for oil and gas development throughout the Northwest Territories are available online. These guides cover in great detail the process of gaining approval for oil and gas facilities in each of the major areas of the Northwest Territories, including the Inuvialuit, Gwich'in, and Sahtu settlement areas, and the southern Mackenzie Valley areas encompassing the Deh Cho, South and North Slave regions.