Safety Concerns Cited At B.C. Pipeline Hearing

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Northern Gateway pipeline hearings in Kelowna have been closed to the public due to "safety concerns." (Canadian Press) | CP

The National Energy Board panel taking community submissions on the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline will hold a one-day hearing in Kelowna, B.C., Monday, but it's closed to the general public due to safety concerns, the panel's website says.

“Due to recent information concerning public safety associated with the Kelowna oral statement hearing on 28 January, the Joint Review Panel has changed the format,” the website said.

The Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings around B.C. and Alberta and has been subject to protests inside and outside the hearing rooms at a number of locations.

The controversial pipeline proposal by Enbridge has met considerable public and political opposition, but also has many supporters.

If approved, the almost 1,200-kilometre-long twin pipeline would carry about 525,000 barrels of bitumen per day from Alberta to the B.C. coast for shipment by tankers.

The panel’s website says a room would be provided at the Kelowna Conference Centre for the public to hear audio broadcasts. A live audio broadcast would also be provided on the website, and transcripts would be published later, the website says.

“The Panel regrets any inconvenience this may cause to those who were planning to attend the hearing,” it said.

30 presenters

The hearing itself will be held at the Sandman Hotel.

One of the 30 approved presenters at the hearing, Priscilla Judd, is travelling from nearby Lumby, B.C., to share her views on the pipeline project to the panel.

“I know the pipeline doesn't affect us directly here, but it does affect us indirectly,” Judd told CBC News. “Tankers would head up the coast and that's where the salmon come from. And the salmon come all the way up the river to Lumby.”

Judd plans to sing the panel a song expressing her concerns about the pipeline.

The hearings then move to Prince Rupert, B.C., for ten sets of four-to-five-day hearings that will run from early February until early May.

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