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Application of a contribution to sustainability test by the Joint Review Panel for the Canadian Mackenzie Gas Project

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Ultimately, the enhancement we need to deliver through environmental assessment is confidence that every approved undertaking will move us positively towards a desirable and durable future. In Canada, the most promising steps in this direction have been in several major project assessment reviews with public hearings and independent panels that applied a contribution to sustainability test. The most recent and advanced case is the review of a proposed C$16.2 billion natural gas infrastructure undertaking in the Northwest Territories. The Panel's application of the contribution to sustainability test compared the cumulative effects, equity and legacy implications of a range of project pace and scale alternatives. The Panel concluded that the project would offer positive overall contributions only if 176 recommendations were implemented. While the Panel's process was slow and the governments accepted only the most modest recommendations, the Panel's review set a new standard of analytical practice. This paper examines how the review was done and assesses its strengths and limitations, with particular attention to the design and application of the contribution to sustainability test.
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Keywords: Canada; Mackenzie gas pipeline; alternatives; cumulative effects; enhancement; legacy; net gains; panel review; sustainability assessment; trade-offs

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Environment and Resource studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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