Environmental Law

Section 3: Organizing, Reviews, and Challenging Issues

The Hearing

At the hearing, an open, public forum is provided for all those concerned to present their cases. Evidence of an environmental, social, economic, and technical nature can be presented; and those involved in the process have the chance to cross-examine each other. As well, expert witnesses or specialists may also present.

All participants are expected to present their cases clearly and as completely as possible given the time constraints of a public meeting. Anyone who becomes long-winded, however, and starts wasting the time of the other parties involved will be advised to stick to information that's pertinent and necessary.

Hearings are normally held in a public hall or meeting room near the spot where the project is to be undertaken. This makes it easier for those affected to take part.

It can get very expensive to be part of these processes. Costs to gather the information, travel, and often costs for lawyers and specialists to come and present. To offset this, there is funding in place to help with these costs.

Just what goes on at a hearing? The procedures are not as formal as those of a courtroom, but they do follow a set pattern:

  • First, there are preliminary remarks-a statement of the hearing's purpose, an introduction of the panel members, and so on.

  • Next, each participant, starting with the applicant, presents his or her position and evidence. Both the NRCB panel and other participants can cross-examine them.

  • When all the interveners who want to present evidence have done so, the applicant can present rebuttal evidence.

  • Next, all the parties present their final arguments to the board; basically this is just a summary of their positions and arguments. This time around, the interveners go first and the applicant finishes up.

  • Finally, the chair closes the hearing and usually announces that the panel will defer its decision until it releases its report at a later date.