Public sessions, allowing for the submission of questions and statements on the Hebron offshore oil project, have been scheduled by the Hebron Public Review Commissioner.
The public meetings begin Nov. 21 and run through Dec. 8.
The sessions will allow interested parties to ask nagging questions, call for clarifications or file objections on the ins and outs of the Hebron project, Commissioner Miller Ayre said Friday.
Hebron is estimated to be worth $8.3 billion in construction and development alone and work on the project is already underway. First oil is expected in late 2017.
Thousands of pages of documentation exist on the project, but knowing them all front to back is not a requirement for participating in the public review.
“I don’t have to look at this and other people don’t have to look at it and gain an expert knowledge,” Ayre said.
“It would be an unreasonable task to perform in the time available if you didn’t have experts available.”
The commission has gathered a team of experts from a wide variety of fields to take part in the review and help to pose questions and provide answers for the public on potential benefits, safety and environmental protections. That team, as with the commission itself, is independent of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) and the Hebron project partners.
The Hebron partners are: ExxonMobil (with a 36 per cent stake), Chevron Canada (26.6 per cent), Suncor Energy (22.7 per cent), Statoil Canada (9.7 per cent) and provincial Crown corporation Nalcor Energy (4.9 per cent).
“It’s good for the province to have that inside look,” Ayre said, when asked about Nalcor’s involvement. However, he indicated, the stake has no meaning in the eyes of the commission, when it comes to questioning aspects of the project plans.
“If we think the government is wrong on something or if the public thinks the government is wrong on something, or the CNLOPB or the operators, than we expect to hear that and we’d comment on it,” Ayre said.
“We make our report and just say what we have to say and the (CNLOPB), in giving the permit to go ahead to ExxonMobil, can choose to ignore anything we say or the public says,” he said.
“We can’t stop it. We can give opinions that others can say are so valid that it should be stopped or changed or altered — but we’re not trying to do that.”
Ayre said the aim is to keep everyone on their toes and ensure communities, businesses and people in the province are benefitting as they should and that safety remains a top priority in all steps of the development.
“It’s about making sure that it’s a better project, ultimately.”
Ayre had requested additional information from the Hebron partners in early October, prior to setting public meetings. The response to that request has since been received and posted to the review website.
“I would say that we’ve found everyone to be completely co-operative. They’re trying to make this thing happen,” he said.
“The next step for us is to get the hearings moving smoothly.”
The deadline for written submissions and/or speaking notes for presentation at one of the public sessions is Nov. 14.