Trudeau's oil minister says NEB review of Energy East pipeline will not be stopped

Canada’s natural resources minister Jim Carr.The Council of Canadians has joined with numerous others to call 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 Energy East pipeline would move 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, generate about 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, enable a 39 per cent increase in tar sands production from 2012 levels, and cross 961 waterways. It has also been estimated that the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion would result in about 270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period.

An open letter, signed by 100 community, business, unions, scientists and environmental groups, said those 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."

There had been some hope that this might happen.

That's because during the election, the Liberals stated, "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 Trudeau's natural resources minister has just given a very different message to executives from some of the biggest oil and pipeline companies in the country including TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge, Imperial Oil Ltd., Nexen Energy, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

The Globe and Mail reports, "During his first visit to Calgary as minister, Jim Carr told energy executives the federal Liberal government understands the industry’s need for investment certainty, assuring them pipelines that are already under review will not have to start from scratch as regulations are updated."

Carr stated, "The proponents will not be asked to go back to square one."

Carr did note that there will be a "transition phase", but did not offer details on what that could mean. The article adds, "Mr. Carr said it is too early to say how new requirements might be layered on to reviews that are under way."

Until then, it appears that it will be "business as usual".

On Nov. 14, the CBC reported, "[National Energy Board chairperson Peter] Watson said he will wait until the government paints a clear picture about what specifically [the Liberal platform and Trudeau's mandate letters to his ministers] means. Until then, it's largely business as usual at the national regulator, including reviewing pipeline projects proposed for the country."

While the NEB timeline for its review of the Energy East pipeline is not known, it is expected that the NEB will make its recommendation on the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion by May 20, 2016.

The Council of Canadians continues to demand that the Trudeau government halt the National Energy Board reviews of the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines, 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.

Further reading
Trudeau dodges question about duty to consult outside of NEB pipeline process (Nov. 25, 2015)
Trudeau's natural resources minister says 'the process continues' for pipeline reviews (Nov. 19, 2015)
NEB chair says it's business as usual with pipeline reviews, for now (Nov. 15, 2015)
Trudeau government backs Energy East, supports tar sands expansion (Nov. 7, 2015)

Photo: Canada’s natural resources minister Jim Carr.