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Winnipeg chapter at National Energy Board Modernization Expert Panel session

Winnipeg chapter activist Dennis LeNeveu

The Council of Canadians Winnipeg chapter participated in a National Energy Board (NEB) modernization panel session yesterday.

Winnipeg chapter activist Dennis LeNeveu was there along with Indigenous allies including Lorraine Clements (Cedar Woman) and Ken Young (Assembly of First Nations Manitoba), as well as allies Alex Paterson (Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition), Eric Reder (Wilderness Committee), Patricia Fitzpatrick (University of Winnipeg), and Teika Newton (Transition Initiative Kenora).

In a widely-shared report-back, Newton notes, “We heard and discussed current problems in general with regulator: captured regulator, lack of environmental consideration / oversight, inadequate emergency preparedness / response protocols, exclusion of climate change from regulatory assessments, insufficient rigour re: completeness determination of applications (especially for the Energy East pipeline).”

She adds that these points were also raised, “problems with hearing process: inadequate participant funding; 15-month time clock too short / doesn’t respect some Indigenous consultation protocols; panelist bias (temporary Board members could be added to better reflect demographic affected by project); directly affected screen should be replaced with various methods of providing input; oral testimony and cross-examination necessary for all reviews; NEB must ensure Indigenous rights are responded to thoroughly and promptly; project application completeness determinations are insufficient.”

And among other points, Newton also references discussions on, “where best to address environmental assessments (who is the responsible designated authority): that the NEB should not be overseeing elements of environmental assessments that belong under the Navigation Protection Act, Fisheries Act, Species at Risk Act and that Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) / Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)  would be the appropriate place to do strategic (classical) and regional / project-specific environmental assessments.”

Ottawa-based Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Daniel Cayley-Daoust will be at the NEB modernization panel session in Gatineau, Quebec on the morning of Wednesday February 22.

While we are participating in these sessions, we also have serious concerns about the expert panel itself. We have called on the Trudeau government to suspend the NEB modernization process and remove three of the five panel experts on the basis that they have pre-existing ties to the pipeline and oil industry that place them in a serious conflict of interest with the panel’s mandate.

Cayley-Daoust says, “The NEB has often been accused of being a ‘captured regulator’ that acts in the best interest of the industry it is supposed to regulate instead of in the public interest as stated in the law governing the board. At face value it would appear that the same is true of the panel in charge of recommending reforms to the NEB.”

Specifically our concerns about these panellists include: Brenda Kenny who worked until 2016 as the president of Canada’s top pipeline lobbyist association, the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association (CEPA); Gary Merasty, who is a former Liberal MP and current board member of the Canada West Foundation, a right-wing think tank that is known for its recent and staunch pro-pipeline stance, including public support for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline; and Hélène Lauzon, who co-chairs the Expert Panel, is the chair of the Quebec Business Council on the Environment, a pro-pipeline business association that represents major pipeline companies like Enbridge and TransCanada, as well as other oil and gas companies.

To call on the Trudeau government to immediately remove Brenda Kenny, Gary Merasty and Hélène Lauzon as expert panel members and to restart the NEB modernization process when they are replaced with panellists who have more balanced views, please go to our online action alert Let’s kick Big Oil out of the NEB now.

The panel was appointed by the Trudeau government in November 2016 to consult and come up with recommendations to reform the energy regulator, it began its hearings in Saskatoon on January 25, its last public session will be in Montreal on March 29, and it will present its report to the Minister of Natural Resources on May 15.