A multi-billion dollar pipeline project will be under the microscope starting tomorrow, and thousands have signed up to speak.

The Northern Gateway pipeline would allow 500,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta's oilsands to be pumped to Kitimat, B.C. on the west coast – where it would be shipped to markets in Asia.

Those against the $5.5 billion project believe it puts sensitive ecosystems at risk of damage and destruction.

"The fact that before the process even started they're labeling these people as radical foreign environmentalists." Mike Hudema, with Greenpeace, said in a phone interview from Toronto. "I think [it] shows the Harper government's lack of respect for democracy, a lack of respect for these voices."

However, supporters of the pipeline welcome the jobs the project would generate.

"We are concerned that radical environmental groups are taking money from the United States," Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said in an interview on CTV's Question Period. "People from the U.S. are coming here with very large environmental footprints to lecture Canadians on what we should do with our resources."

More than 4300 groups and individuals have registered to speak in the hearings with the National Energy Board, a decision is expected in the spring of 2013.

The hearings begin Tuesday in Kitimat, and will move to Edmonton on January 24.

Sixty First Nations in British Columbia and 14 in Alberta have vowed to fight the pipeline.

So far, the board has turned down two pipelines, out of hundreds of proposals.

With files from Kevin Armstrong