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Trudeau sets stage for resumption of National Energy Board hearings on Energy East pipeline

Source: TransCanada

The Trudeau government is taking steps to enable the National Energy Board review of the Energy East pipeline to resume.

The Canadian Press reports, “Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has moved to revive the stalled review of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline by appointing three new, bilingual, temporary members to the National Energy Board. The move came Dec. 12 while the dust was still settling on the Liberal government’s pan-Canadian climate policy framework [which on its own is insufficient to meet its climate targets]. The Trudeau government has been playing off climate policy initiatives and fossil fuel infrastructure approvals in a carefully choreographed dance all fall.”

“The Energy East hearings by the National Energy Board were barely underway when they fell apart in September over appearances of conflict of interest by the panel reviewing the application. NEB chairman Peter Watson and vice-chair Lyne Mercier were both implicated for having private meetings with a paid TransCanada consultant to discuss public opinion around the controversial project. Three months later, Carr has named temporary replacement panellists and kicked the issue back to the NEB. …The three new members — one each from New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec — were not specifically named to the Energy East review panel by Carr because it’s up to the acting chair of the National Energy Board to assign duties. The board issued a statement Dec. 12 saying it will name the Energy East panel ‘shortly’.”

The article adds, “The Liberal government is also conducting a longer term review of the entire National Energy Board mandate, but the Energy East assessment will go ahead under the amended, interim process announced by the government last January. At the time, Carr set a 21-month timeline for the completion of the Energy East review, but the clock was stopped by the conflict-of-interest allegations. ‘The 21 months will be determined by the board on how it chooses to deploy these new members — whether or not they can be briefed up and resume (the former hearings) or whether they would go back to the beginning of the briefings’, Carr said. ‘And that’s their call.'”

The Council of Canadians has argued that a new review panel should completely restart the whole process, including going back to Saint John and Fredericton where the first hearings were held this past summer. We have also stated that the hearings should not take place until processes are developed to respect the principle of free, prior and informed consent, and a credible climate test is implemented that takes into account Canada’s carbon budget as well as upstream and downstream climate emissions.

Despite these criticisms, the Council of Canadians will also intervene in the hearings.

Our application to the NEB proposed to tackle three areas – the impacts of diluted bitumen spills in waterways, pipeline safety concerns and climate pollution impacts. We also proposed hiring water expert Dr. David Schindler and Evan Vokes, who was previously a pipeline engineer with TransCanada (the company behind the pipeline proposal), to review the application and help us present information to the Board.

Our application highlighted that we intend to present “evidence regarding the cumulative upstream climate pollution impacts of the proposed pipeline, including the ‘upstream activities associated with the development of oil sands, or the downstream and end use of the oil transported by the Project.’ This evidence will include an analysis conducted by qualified climate change scientists at Lakehead University of the Project’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in relation to existing and other proposed oil pipeline project proposals falling under the Board’s jurisdiction.”

While the Trudeau government has agreed to include upstream emissions in its pipeline review, it has not specified inclusion of the much larger downstream emissions.

It is not known when the National Energy Board hearings on the Energy East pipeline will resume, but an NEB recommendation on the pipeline had been expected in March 2018. The Trudeau government would then have until June 2018 to make its decision on the pipeline. TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, wants Energy East operational by late 2019 or early 2020.

Council of Canadians climate justice campaigner Daniel Cayley-Daoust provides further background on the appointments and NEB review process in this blog.

For more on our campaign to stop Energy East, please click here.