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Public safety concerns to restrict admission to pipeline hearing

Many people may be disappointed at being shut out of watching the Joint Review Panel proceedings for the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project hearing set for Kelowna on Monday.

Due to concerns about public safety associated with the Jan. 28 hearing, the review panel will only allow media, oral statement presenters and their guests.

The panel has allocated space at the Holiday Inn Express Kelowna hotel to hear an audio feed of the proceedings, which will take place at the Sandman Hotel on Harvey Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As well, a live audio feed will be provided through the panel's website, www.gatewaypanel.review.gc.ca.

Diana Varga, a Kelowna resident, said she is upset but not surprised about the hearing procedure.

They did the same thing for the hearings in Victoria and Vancouver and it generated the same complaints,” Varga said.

It is no longer a public process when you define when the public is and is not allowed to participate.”

Varga said she is aware that many individuals and groups will likely descend on the Sandman this Monday to protest the project.

There are two aspects to this. There is the hearing itself and the protest that will go on outside of the hearings,” Varga said.

Concerns about one shouldn't affect the other.

I'm just not sure what (the panel) is claiming will be safety issues.”

Varga said she will participate in the protest Monday as an individual, saying she is against laying a pipeline across northern B.C. that will cross 800 rivers and streams, and is concerned about tanker ships negotiating their way through narrow inlets on route from the pipeline destination point of Kitimat.

What we need is a national energy policy that will lead us in the transition away form fossil fuels.”

A number of other meetings are taking place this weekend as lead-up to Monday's panel hearing.

NDP MLA Rob Fleming, the Opposition critic for the environment, will speak about environmental issues on Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at the United Church Hall, corner of Richter and Bernard in downtown Kelowna.

His presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. Admission is free. An optional dinner of pulled pork, vegetarian chili and coleslaw will be available for $10 a person. Coffee and tea will be available by donation.

A documentary will also be presented on Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Okanagan College campus theatre on KLO Road entitled White Water Black Gold, a film about the Alberta oilsands project.

As well, the People's Summit will take place Saturday, 7 to 9 p.m., at the United Church Hall in downtown Kelowna featuring four keynote speakers: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Fleming.

That will be followed on Sunday at the church, 2 to 5 p.m., by workshops and skills training on how to lead in resistance to the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Participants will also discuss long-term strategies leading up to the provincial election in the spring.

And the Green Party leader will also host a brunch on Sunday, 10 a.m. to noon, at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in the Mission. Cost is $40 per person for an organic brunch and to hear Elizabeth May speak about her work as an MP and to take questions from the audience.

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