Regulating the Alaska Highway Gas Pipeline project in Canada
The Northern Pipeline Agency (Agency) was created by Act of Parliament in 1978 to oversee and regulate the planning and construction of the Canadian portion of the Alaska Highway Gas Pipeline (AHGP), and it has been the federal regulator of the AHGP in Canada since the Northern Pipeline Act was passed in 1978. The Agency serves as a single window for the federal regulation of the project, consolidating regulatory functions and coordinating with other departments and levels of government to reduce duplication and streamline the regulatory process while ensuring robust environmental protection and maximization of socio-economic benefits.
Established by Parliament in 1978 under the Northern Pipeline Act, the Agency is an independent federal agency with a twofold mandate:
- To carry out federal activities related to the efficient and expeditious planning and construction of the AHGP, taking into account local and regional interests, in particular those of Aboriginal people;
- To maximize the social and economic benefits from the construction and operation of the AHGP, while minimizing any adverse effects on the social and environmental conditions of the areas most directly affected by the pipeline.
In keeping with its mandate, the Agency has a long history of public consultation that includes a four-year Environmental Assessment and Review Panel under a previous federal regime (1978-82), extensive work by regional Advisory Councils while the terms and conditions for the pipeline were being developed, and a socio-economic inquiry (the Mair inquiry) in northern B.C. (1979). Hearings and inquiries that took place prior to the Northern Pipeline Act (Act) include the National Energy Board’s hearings on northern pipelines between 1975 and 1977, the Lysyk socio-economic inquiry in Yukon in 1977 and the Berger Inquiry into the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline from 1975 to 1977. Timeline of Major Events.
More recently, the Agency has been working in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments and Aboriginal groups to establish roles and responsibilities. The Agency has consulted and continues to engage with First Nations and Métis groups along the pipeline route in Yukon and northern British Columbia, holding workshops as well as meetings with individual groups to discuss and address concerns relating to the AHGP and to assist Aboriginal communities in realizing socio-economic benefits from the project.
Should the AHGP proceed, the Agency would carry out a two stage comprehensive public regulatory process under the Act for reviewing updated environmental and socio-economic information and addressing any public concerns. This regulatory review process will meet or exceed modern environmental and socio-economic standards and outcomes. The regulatory process will deliver the desired outcomes, be transparent, provide ample opportunity for public participation, and lead to strong regulatory decision-making.
The purpose of the environmental and socio-economic review stage of the process is to provide a public forum for a review of updated information from the project, identify gaps in the knowledge, and seek views from interested parties, in particular Aboriginal peoples, on potential impacts of the project. This work will be undertaken by Advisory Councils consisting of individuals appointed by Governor in Council.
The Advisory Councils’ reports will make an important contribution to the Agency’s regulatory review under the leadership of the Designated Officer, a regulatory official provided for in the Act. The Advisory Council reports will also be a substantial source of information for other regulators.