Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 124

124 Arctic Yearbook 2015 organizations (Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project 2009). A clear divide appeared between those regions where a land claim had been signed and those that had no such agreement yet. In the first case the Aboriginal organizations supported the pipeline project, while in the second there was widespread opposition (Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project 2009; National Energy Board 2010). The NEB, for its part, held public hearings from 2006 to 2010 in 15 communities (NEB 2010). In December 2009, the Joint Review Panel submitted its report and concluded “that there are reasonable grounds for expecting that the Project would make a positive contribution to sustainability provided that the Panel’s recommendations are fully implemented” (Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project, 2009). In November 2010, the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories responded to the JRP report and accepted 88 of the 115 recommendations. One month later, the NEB issued a decision to approve the project and, finally, on March 11, 2011, almost eight years after the project proponents had filed the pipeline project, the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline was granted federal cabinet approval. However, by that time it was no longer financially viable because the natural gas price had dropped from $15.38 per MMBtu in December 2005 to $4.57 in 2011 due to increased American production of shale gas. The Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP), thus, received approval through a lengthy and complicated process, which took over seven years from the time the project was officially tabled. The land claim and water boards did not, however, slow down the process conducted by the Joint Review Panel. In fact, most of the delays were due to the extensive public consultations taking place and to the need to review the project through two processes: a local one for the Mackenzie Valley and the NWT and a federal one through the National Energy Board. Finally, the MGP had support from all of the Aboriginal groups that had signed land claim agreements, and all of the groups that had not were opposed. Therefore, it could be said that the land claim agreements are, in fact, facilitating approval of development projects. The federal solution: streamlining and recentralizing the regulatory process In the NWT During MGP public hearings, the federal government mandated a special rapporteur, Neil McCrank, to review the regulatory system in the North with an almost exclusive focus on the NWT. In March 2008, after consultations with many stakeholders, a two-day roundtable was held in Yellowknife to hear the opinions of other stakeholders, with 80 people being present (McCrank 2008). The McCrank Report recommended two options: transform the regional boards into administrative regulatory bodies that would no longer have quasi-judicial power or merge all the land and water boards into a single board, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board (MVLWB). If that second option was to be chosen, the report further recommended that the federal government reach agreements with each party in order to make amendments to the land claim agreements before amending the MVRMA and that the MVLWB have final decision-making authority (rather than the Minister). Resource Development & Land Claims