08/03/2012 10:19 EDT | Updated 10/03/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. government intends to cross-examine pipeline plan

The B.C. government has registered as an official intervenor in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel, and is promising tough questions for the energy company when the final round of hearings on its pipeline begins in September.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake said government lawyers registered Wednesday in order to ask Enbridge tough questions about oil response and cleanup.

He said the province needs to know that the company is capable of conducting a cleanup operation in B.C.'s geography and climate, and is able to pay for it.

"We want to ensure the corporate structure is such that the taxpayer is not left on the hook for any adverse event should that occur," he said.

The B.C. government also intends to seek Enbridge's response to questions about oil spill prevention, the planned frequency of pipeline inspections, and tanker safety evaluations.

Victoria will also seek answers around questions of Aboriginal and treaty rights, and profit sharing among involved parties.

Last month, B.C. Premier Christy Clark sparred with the Alberta premier over the issue of fiscal and economic benefits.

B.C. wants a fair share of the monetary benefits of the proposed heavy oil project, but Alberta has no plans to share pipeline revenues.

Strategy questioned

The province has requested eight-and-a-half hours of questioning, but critics say that's too little — and too late.

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix said the late notice leaves province is in a weak position.

"All that's left to them is asking questions 'cause they didn't put their evidence on the table," he said.

Dix says the Liberals could have launched their own environmental assessment, but gave way to the federal process and then failed to file any evidence.

Alberta, on the other hand, submitted a detailed brief about why it supports the project.

"I think people in B.C. would be stunned that the government has evidence as to risk to British Columbia and they have refused to provide it to a panel making a decision on this issue," Dix said.

Economist Robyn Allan said that if B.C. had provided evidence, it would have been subject to the same scrutiny as any other submission in the process.

"It turns out if you're an intervenor and you do not file evidence, you can't be questioned by anyone else," Allan said.

She said that the B.C. government will be immune to any probing questions from the joint review process.