Council of Canadians calls on Trudeau government to stop NEB pipeline reviews

Harden-Donahue at PMO
Harden-Donahue calling the Prime Minister's Office at a recent protest across the street for 24 Sussex Drive.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to halt the National Energy Board (NEB) reviews of the TransCanada Energy East pipeline and the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline projects.

The Liberals had promised in their election platform, "Canadians must be able to trust that government will engage in appropriate regulatory oversight, including credible environmental assessments, and that it will respect the rights of those most affected, such as Indigenous communities. ...We will also ensure that environmental assessments include an analysis of upstream impacts and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from projects under review." But federal minister of natural resources Jim Carr recently stated, "You don't rush your way into decisions that affect not only today, but generationally in Canada in the new world of sustainably moving resources to market." And back on Nov. 25, 2015, just weeks after becoming the minister, he told energy executives in Calgary, "The proponents will not be asked to go back to square one."

In a DeSmog Canada news report, Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue replies, "We shouldn’t rush the creation of a new process. But continuing with the flawed Kinder Morgan and Energy East reviews is entirely inconsistent with Liberal promises. How can a 'transition strategy' rectify the failings around public participation and Indigenous consultation for these projects. I don't see how this can happen. We are not saying pipeline companies have to go back to square one. All evidence submitted goes on hold and this can be supplemented with additional evidence after the changes are made."

The DeSmog article also notes, "[Under the Harper government], the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act were altered to ensure proposed pipelines made it through the regulatory process within 15-months, no matter how complex those projects may be." To that, Harden-Donahue comments, "Some pipeline reviews may fall into that time limit. On the other hand, large projects with clear risks like Energy East or Kinder Morgan may not and this is problematic." Harden-Donahue has previously commented, "The Energy East and Trans Mountain reviews have been marred by controversy and, as they stand, are illegitimate."

In terms of timelines, the National Energy Board hearings on the Trans Mountain pipeline resumed yesterday (Jan. 19). The NEB is scheduled to make its recommendation on the pipeline expansion by May 20, 2016. It is expected that the Trudeau government will make its decision on the pipeline shortly thereafter. Kinder Morgan says, if approved, the pipeline would be operational in 2018. On Dec. 17, 2015, TransCanada filed an amended application for their Energy East pipeline. Once that application is ruled complete by the NEB, the 15-month deadline is set. The company has set it wants to start construction on the pipeline in 2018 and have it operational for 2020.

On Nov. 26, 2015, the Council of Canadians signed an open letter long with 100 community, business, unions, scientists and environmental groups, that said the NEB pipeline reviews are "broken" and that they should be stopped "until the process is fixed". The letter highlighted, "This includes properly consulting with First Nations governments affected by pipeline proposals and including an assessment of upstream and downstream impacts or greenhouse gas emissions."

On Jan. 15, Council of Canadians Thunder Bay chapter activist Ruth Cook called on the Trudeau government to stop the reviews. She was taking part in a protest in front of Thunder Bay-Superior North Liberal MP Patty Hajdu’s riding office. She also helped to deliver a letter to Thunder Bay-Rainy River Liberal MP Don Rusnak.

Cook says, "This government, before they were the government, made a tremendous number of promises and they are working on keeping a lot of them and we found that to be very positive but we found this one and it kind of felt as if it was being slipped in and thinking it would be under the radar and we wouldn’t notice. I can’t say that was their motivation but it was discouraging to think of all the promises, this one wasn’t being kept. [If the pipelines are built, it would fly in the face] of their climate promises [made at the COP21 climate summit in Paris]."

The Council of Canadians is dismayed that environment minister Catherine McKenna has stated, "Projects initiated under the original system will continue on that path." And as CBC has reported, "[National Energy Board chair Peter] Watson said he will wait until the government paints a clear picture about what specifically [Liberal promises of reform mean]. Until then, it's largely business as usual at the national regulator, including reviewing pipeline projects proposed for the country." We demand that the Trudeau government halt the NEB reviews, launch an immediate public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes, and implement a new process to ensure all proposed projects are assessed on the basis of their individual and cumulative impacts, their upstream and downstream climate pollution, among other actions.

To keep pressure on the Trudeau government to stop the deeply flawed pipeline reviews, please add your name to our Keep your promises, Liberals: Stop pipeline reviews action alert.