Today marks the next phase of an important national conversation about Canada’s future. In Edmonton, hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project re-open today, giving groups like Ecojustice the opportunity to raise concerns about the impact the proposed pipeline would have on the future of this country’s economy, energy and environment.

The risks are clear. And we intend to tell the Joint Review Panel (JRP) tasked with reviewing the project exactly that. We’ve submitted hundreds of pages of scientific evidence on behalf of our clients that lead to one emphatic conclusion — that Northern Gateway is an unsafe, unsustainable and unnecessary project, and it does not serve the national interest of this country.

Our role in this environmental assessment process is a unique one. We’re representing three environmental groups — ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation — in evidence-based hearings that will stretch into December.

We will play a key role in holding Enbridge to account and plan to challenge its assertion that ramming a 1,176 km pipeline through northern British Columbia, crossing hundreds of water ways and disturbing dozens of delicate ecosystems, will benefit Canadians. We’re going to ask Enbridge what makes the Northern Gateway project different after a summer of damning reports and pipeline ruptures make hard for Canadians to trust assurances made by the oil and gas industry.

Politicians, churches and environmental groups have weighed in on the project. Scores of Canadians are saying that they don’t want to see Northern Gateway built and more than one newspaper columnist has declared that the pipeline is a dead project. Although public opinion doesn’t appear to favour Enbridge at the moment, Ecojustice and our clients know we are a long way from a final decision.

We’ve identified the review process as the best way to leverage our shared expertise into on-the-ground-results. Though the decision to approve or reject the pipeline ultimately rests with the federal government, the JRP’s recommendations will have considerable influence over that final decision.

That’s why our role is so crucial. We’ll be working to level the playing field and make sure that the legitimate concerns of people who care about our rivers, animals and forests are heard amid the big promises being made by Enbridge. Above all our goal is to ensure the threats this project poses to our air, water and land are known and considered.

We’ll be checking in as the hearings proceed. There will be a lot to discuss. You can keep up to date by checking out our Northern Gateway case page and listening to the audio livestreams of the actual proceedings as they happen.

By Tim Leadem and Barry Robinson, Ecojustice staff lawyers