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NEB chair says it's business as usual with pipeline reviews, for now

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Photo: Council of Canadians

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In his mandate letter to natural resources minister James Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote:

"In particular, I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities:
Work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to immediately review Canada's environmental assessment processes to regain public trust and introduce new, fair processes that will:

  • restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments of areas under federal jurisdiction, while also working with provinces and territories to avoid duplication;
  • ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public's interest;
  • provide ways for Canadians to express their views and opportunities for experts to meaningfully participate, including provisions to enhance the engagement of Indigenous groups in reviewing and monitoring major resource development projects; and
  • require project proponents to choose the best technologies available to reduce environmental impacts."

Trudeau gave the same instructions to the minister of environment Catherine McKenna and the minister of fisheries Hunter Tootoo, and similar direction to the minister of Indigenous and northern affairs Carolyn Bennett.

The Liberal platform this election also stated, "We will also ensure that environmental assessments include an analysis of upstream impacts and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from projects under review."

Now the CBC reports, "[National Energy Board chair Peter] Watson has had a brief conversation with the new natural resources minister, James Carr, and will have more in-depth talks in the coming months. Watson realizes change is coming to the NEB, he's just not sure how. ...For example, the organization would need to know what to include in its assessment, whether it's the upstream operations of extracting oil and gas or the downstream emissions of burning natural gas to heat homes and using gasoline to drive cars and trucks." The article adds, "Watson said he will wait until the government paints a clear picture about what specifically that means. Until then, it's largely business as usual at the national regulator, including reviewing pipeline projects proposed for the country."

Business as usual is not acceptable.

In April 2014, the National Energy Board announced it "does not have regulatory authority over upstream or downstream activities associated with the development of oil sands, or the end use of the oil to be transported by the [Energy East pipeline] project" and therefore would not consider climate change in its list of issues to be considered. In May 2014, the Council of Canadians asked the Federal Court of Appeal to set aside this list of issues, given it didn't include climate change. In February 2015, we joined with allies in front of the National Energy Board head office in Calgary to deliver more than 100,000 signatures demanding that climate change be included in their review of the Energy East pipeline.

Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue says, "If we can't talk about tar sands expansion and climate change at the NEB, where can we? Pipeline infrastructure is nearing capacity in Alberta. Adding 1.1 million barrels every day, Energy East will absolutely spur tar sands expansion and significant carbon pollution."

We are calling on the Trudeau government to:

  • halt the National Energy Board reviews of the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines, with a view to rejecting both pipelines;
  • launch an immediate public review of Canada's environmental assessment processes;
  • 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, and meaningful public consultation;
  • ensure that the process includes the ability of Indigenous peoples to exercise their decision making authority according to their respective laws and governance systems;
  • restore and strengthen the protections removed from the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act; and
  • undertake, in full partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, a review of regulatory laws, policies and operational practices to ensure that the Crown is executing its consultation, accommodation, and consent obligations on energy project reviews and assessment, in accordance with its constitutional and international human rights obligations.

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.

For more on our energy and climate justice campaign, please click here.

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