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OEB Energy East Consultation – Next Steps

Today I attended the second stakeholder forum for the Ontario Energy Board’s Energy East consultation.

There were around 20 people in the room and 25 joining over the phone from a range of organizations including: the Mayor of Timmins, CAEPLA, consumer groups, Hydro One, Canadian Association of Petroleum Produces, Canadian Gas Association, Ontario Energy Association,  Tourism, Anglers and Hunters,  Environmental Defence, Ecology Ottawa.

The meeting began with an overview of key observations from the consultations thus far (read the detailed reports from the consultations here).

Not surprisingly, concerns over the impacts of water ranked high (Trout Lake and Oxford Aquifer mentioned specifically in the presentation given – both noted in this blog) , as well as climate change and differing opinions over job potential and pipeline safety.

Here are some interesting updates I took away from today’s meeting:

TransCanada to file with NEB in late September

Based on their recent meeting with TransCanada, Alex (speaking on behalf of the OEB) suggested TransCanada is likely to file their full Energy East project description in late September.

TransCanada wants new gas pipeline – Eastern Mainline – which will be proposed as part of the Energy East project.

Since announced, the Energy East project has been plagued by questions around how converting a natural gas pipeline supplying Ontario and Quebec will impact our supply and cost of natural gas. See my recent blog about Union Gas’ recent stab at the project.

I learned today that TransCanada intends to fold their proposal for a new natural gas pipeline from Markam to Iroquois, the Eastern Mainline, into it’s Energy East project proposal.  How much of the costs for this new pipeline will be borne by tax payers? To what extent will this see Ontario and Quebec residents more reliant on imported fracked gas from the U.S. (here’s why we think this is a bad idea)? 

The OEB will be retaining an additional company to evaluate the impacts on Ontario’s natural gas pricing and supply – Elenchus.  It is unclear to me the extent to which Elenchus or Ziff Energy, also retained by the OEB, will consider the impacts of becoming increasingly reliant on fracked gas (if at all).

Ontario Energy Board heard loud and clear – technical advise being sought on climate change impacts of Energy East pipeline

The OEB is retaining technical advise to help understand the carbon emissions associated with the Energy East pipeline. This will include looking at modeling capabilities and petroleum pricing models. This was welcomed by a number of environmental and social justice groups participating in the meeting, less so from industry representatives.

Representatives from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and a gas industry association warned the OEB of wading into complex regulatory territory, and the need to consider all upstream and downstream impacts, if climate change is considered.  Both pointed to the NEB’s example of not addressing carbon emissions associated filling the pipelines under review (yet upstream economic benefits are considered – my emphasis here).

This is far from black and white. In fact, there are a slew of legal challenges underway about the NEB’s Enbridge Northern Gateway decision which challenge the lack of climate change considerations in pipeline reviews.  For more information:

Northern Gateway lawsuit  Breaking News: we’re going to court over northern gateway ; Forestethics advocacy files lawsuit against federal government and National Energy Board ; It’s about the economy stupid: Unifor files a judicial review to stop northern gateway 

The Council of Canadians has already sought to appeal the NEB’s list of issues for the Energy East pipeline project because it excluded climate change considerations. 

OEB Energy East Consultation Part Two

The OEB will share its technical advisors’ preliminary assessment and seek feedback. The timing of this will be 6-7 weeks after TransCanada files their full project description.

This feedback will include:

  • A meeting for large-scale gas consumers and consumer organizations

  • Seven community discussions (same location as last time)

  • Seven First Nations Meetings

  • Metis Meetings

  • A Stakeholder Forum (opportunity for organizations/groups to provide their perspectives with the OEB)

  • Opportunity for written submissions

After this, the OEB will prepare its report to the Minister, including the feedback and submissions received, and the analysis provided by its technical advisors.

The Council of Canadians will continue to be part of this process, highlighting the risks of Energy East including further expansion in the tar sands and driving up climate change emissions, threatening important waterways with a diluted bitumen spill; leaving Ontario and Quebec more reliant on fracked gas, and primarily benefiting industry with estimates that close to 1 million of the 1.1 million bpd is destined for export.