Council of Canadians challenges National Energy Board modernization panel

Council of Canadians campaigner Daniel Cayley-Daoust presenting to the NEB modernization panel yesterday.

Ottawa-based Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Daniel Cayley-Daoust presented to the National Energy Board (NEB) modernization panel yesterday in Gatineau, Quebec.

The panel was appointed by the Trudeau government in November 2016 to consult and come up with recommendations to reform the energy regulator. Council of Canadians Winnipeg chapter activist Dennis LeNeveu presented to the panel at their session in Winnipeg on February 17.

While we are participating in these sessions, we have also raised 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. 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.

After making that point to the modernization panel, Cayley-Daoust raised other issues including that:

1- There should be a complete overhaul of Board members and that the Board member selection process must ensure that appointees are at least at an arms length-distance from the oil and gas industry;
2- People who have worked as lobbyists for the oil and gas industry should be barred from being appointed to the National Energy Board for a ten-year period;
3- The NEB headquarters should be relocated away from Calgary, which is in close proximity to the headquarters of Canada's largest oil and gas companies;
4- The NEB should present information to the public in a more accessible manner, notably with user-friendly maps of pipeline routes;
5- It should incorporate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations into their policies and practices;
6- It should respect the right to free, prior and informed consent reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
7- It should establish a maximum lifespan for pipelines, after which time they would be replaced or decommissioned;
8- It should ensure companies have an appropriate contingency plan for decommissioning or for clean-ups should a company go bankrupt;
9- It should ensure that fossil fuel production and demand forecasting take into account our responsibility to meet the targets in the Paris climate agreement;
10- It should ensure alternative energy production scenarios be considered in determining the need for a fossil fuel project.

Yesterday, the National Observer reported, "The Trudeau government has been criticized by its political rivals for spending public money on consultations on controversial issues and then ignoring recommendations or abandoning key promises. But the NEB modernization experts say they are already discussing the feedback from the public and trust that the government is serious about solving a critical problem."

Kenny says, "There is no government of any political stripe that has not recently been troubled by the undermining of public trust on public institutions in general and on the ability to make decisions around energy and related environmental interests on energy projects in particular."

We'll see.

The modernization panel now moves on to Fort St. John (March 1-2), Edmonton (March 7-8), Yellowknife (March 10), Saint John (March 21-22), and Montreal (March 28-29). It will present its report to the Minister of Natural Resources on May 15.

To call on the Trudeau government to immediately remove Kenny, Merasty and 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.