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Funding offered for Northern Gateway environmental assessment

Residents and organizations concerned about a proposed oil pipeline across British Columbia have until September 21 to apply for government funding to offset the costs of participating in an environmental assessment of the project.

The Northern Gateway pipeline, being developed by Enbridge, would run from Bruderheim, near Edmonton, Alberta to a new marine terminal at Kitimat, B.C. (about 60 km south of Terrace). It would actually consist of two parallel pipelines, one bringing up to 525,000 barrels of oil per day to the coast, and the other returning condensate -- which is used to thin the oil for transport -- back to Alberta.

A number of potential risks from the project have been raised by concerned groups. Spills from the pipeline could be a threat to wild salmon, Merran Smith of ForestEthics told The Tyee in January.

"The pipeline in and of itself will be crossing hundreds of salmon streams. If it were to break…that would have severe impacts on wild salmon," she said.

In addition, there are worries about oil tankers heading to and from the new terminal at Kitimat. Although Enbridge emphasizes that there have been no major incidents at Kitimat harbour during the past 25 years of operation, opponents have warned that oil spills are inevitable with increased traffic, and would be devastating to the coastal ecology.

In June, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation hosted a summit of aboriginal and environmental groups to help organize opposition to the project.

The Northern Gateway proposal will be assessed by a joint review panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the National Energy Board. A total of $600,000 is being made available to individuals, aboriginal groups and not-for-profit organizations who wish to participate in those hearings, which have not yet been scheduled.

The money is being offered by the CEAA through their Participant Funding Program, and can be used to hire experts, conduct research, or cover travel costs.

To be eligible for funding, an applicant must:

* have a direct, local interest in the project, such as living or owning property in the project area;

* have community knowledge or Aboriginal traditional knowledge relevant to the environmental assessment; or

* have expert information relevant to the anticipated environmental effects of the project.

More details on the review process and how to apply for funding are available at the CEAA's project web page.

Amelia Bellamy-Royds reports for The Tyee.

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