Canada Arctic pipeline faces 1-year regulatory wait

Fri Dec 5, 2008 4:26pm EST
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By Scott Haggett

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A regulatory panel weighing a proposal for a C$16.2 billion ($12.5 billion) pipeline to ship gas from Canada's Arctic will not complete its report for one year, spelling another in a long list of delays for the embattled project.

The Joint Review Panel, which is examining the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, said it will release its report in December 2009, months later that expected.

"We understand that there is tremendous interest in the panel's findings, but we are required and committed to base our findings on a full and fair review of the evidence," Robert Hornal, the panel's chairman, said in a statement.

The pipeline, slated to tap massive gas fields under the Mackenzie River's arctic delta, was originally expected to be complete by 2011.

But the line has been stalled as its backers looked to cut ballooning costs and regulators repeatedly extended their deadlines for ruling on the project.

The JRP report is needed before Canada's National Energy Board, which held public hearings at the same time as the panel, can make its ruling on whether the project can proceed.

Imperial Oil Ltd, which is leading the five-company consortium looking to build the line, said it does not yet know what impact the delay will have on its plans.

"It's clearly a disappointment for us and for the project," said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial. "This is well beyond anything that we had expected ... We'll have to sit down and consider what this might mean."   Continued...