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Carr set for major announcement: How should we judge new pipeline rules

Natural Resources Minister Carr is set to announce the much anticipated principles and possible supplemental assessment for new oil pipelines this afternoon.

Today’s announcement comes after a solid 2 weeks of the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposals dominating national news.

What do we want to see from today’s announcement?

Energy East will not fall under a ‘transition plans ’for pipeline reviews. The hearing order which kicks off the 15-month review of the project (which includes the release of approved intervenors and details for the hearings) hasn’t even happened yet. Energy East should fall under an entirely revamped NEB pipeline review and environmental assessment process that effectively achieves the promises the Liberals made in their platform and on the campaign trail, and respond to the clear deficiencies and standards listed below.

The Kinder Morgan project review has been marred in controversy. This includes the withdrawal of former BC Hydro CEO  who called the process a farce , the Harper government appointment of an NEB board member that was a former Kinder Morgan consultant  and the refusal of the NEB to include the most comprehensive and damning review of the risks of diluted bitumen spills by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The hearings which will end next week have been the target of a variety of protests and non violent civil disobedience actions. The review as it stands is entirely unacceptable and will never achieve social license. The current process must be halted and the following deficiencies and actions must be addressed.

Immediate action needed for effective pipeline reviews:

  • Address the clear deficiencies highlighted in the most recent audit by the federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development.


  • Fix the broken consultation process with First Nations along pipeline paths. This must be consistent with the government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) including obtaining the free, prior and informed consent before issuing federal permits.  It must ensure that the process includes the ability of Indigenous peoples to exercise their decision making authority according to their respective laws and governance systems a new process to ensure all proposed projects are subject to a climate test that includes the upstream emissions from filling the pipeline and is consistent with Canada’s stated support for a 1.5 degree limit on global warming.


  • Ensure there is meaningful public consultation on pipeline reviews, including both Kinder Morgan and TransCanada’s pipeline projects. Currently participants need to demonstrate they are “directly affected” by a pipeline or have “relevant expertise.” We’ve seen participants apply to the Kinder Morgan review with clear concerns including around oil spills in their community and the climate impacts of the project, that were rejected. While the list of approved intervenors for Energy East has yet to be announced, without intervention it is set up for the same fate. Cut backs to funding available to intervenors have also diminished their ability to contribute and the loss of oral cross-examination. All concerned Canadians should be allowed to meaningfully participate.  


  • Ensure science-based oil spill analysis including a risk assessment for spills within federal and provincial jurisdiction, and evidence supporting world-class spill preparedness and emergency response measures is allowed. This includes allowing the National Academy of Sciences study on the effects of spilled bitumen, which the NEB has refused in the Kinder Morgan review, into evidence.

In the longer term, the government must also:

  • Restore and strengthen the protections removed from the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act under the Harper government.


  • Launch an immediate public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes.


  • For NEB reviews, end the imposed 15 month timeline on pipeline reviews, increase funding available to intervenors and re-introduce oral cross examination.


  • Reform the membership of the NEB which is dominated by experience in the oil and gas industry, as promised in the Liberal platform.

I’m eagerly awaiting news of the press conference Minister Carr and McKenna are holding at 5:00pm EST today and am preparing to respond.

It appears the government is on track to suggest both Kinder Morgan and TransCanada’s projects will fall under ‘transition measures.’ We will need to judge what is shared tonight, and the forthcoming changes not only by the Liberals promises, but in their effectively addressing the above deficiencies with the current processes, and implementation of new measures.

While we should have a better sense soon what these transition plans look like, at it stands I am having trouble envisioning how they could effectively redress problems like given space to all of the people that were unfairly rejected by the Kinder Morgan review or the clearly broken consultation process with First Nations with both the Kinder Morgan and Energy East reviews.  

Stay tuned!