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Editor’s update: The Trudeau government has announced it will begin preparing “transition plans” for existing pipelines under review and strengthen National Energy Board reviews. In a statement to Bloomberg Business a spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said “The government has committed to transition plans for important natural resource projects while we undertake longer term modernization on the crucial regulatory agencies.”
The Kinder Morgan National Energy Board (NEB) hearings began in Burnaby, B.C. this week, bringing with them an increase in protests across the country.
Coordinated by 350.org, activists in Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver served policy makers including Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a “People’s Injunction.” The injunction calls for a stop on NEB hearings until the review process is overhauled.
“We hereby order the National Energy Board to immediately suspend the ongoing reviews of the TransCanada Energy East and Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipelines,” the injunction states. “This order shall remain in effect until the NEB environmental review process is reformed, as promised by Trudeau during his campaign.”
During its campaign, the Liberal party stated that environmental assessments needed to become credible again and engage communities that are affected by proposals, including Indigenous communities. Instead, the reviews that are currently underway use Stephen Harper’s NEB protocol which has been criticized for its lack of climate change consideration and restrictive, closed-door nature. The NEB itself is still stacked with Conservative appointees, including energy-industry insiders and former Kinder Morgan employees.
“The prime minister said repeatedly during the election that the process is flawed and must be fixed, but so far we’ve seen nothing,” said Kai Nagata, Dogwood Initiative’s Energy & Democracy Director in a statement. “Every day these hearings proceed, more damage is done.”
Nagata is right: the fact that these hearings are currently taking place at all contradicts what Trudeau himself said on the campaign trail when asked if the NEB overhaul applies to existing projects like Kinder Morgan’s.
“Yes. Yes,” he said. “It applies to existing projects, to existing pipelines as well…that process needs to be redone.”
Yet even with this new government, the Canadian environmental review process is still the same.
“The problem is that they’ve promised to overhaul the process, but they’re allowing the reviews to go forward and they’re promising to fix it at some point in the future,” says Cam Fenton, 350.org staff member. “It’s kind of like trying to fix a car while it’s driving. It’s just not going to work.”
Green Party leader Elizabeth May presented her final argument to the NEB yesterday, pointing out the issue of a lack of cross-examination of Trans Mountain’s evidence in the process.
“I hope I made it clear to the NEB that not only is this is a violation of procedural fairness, it fundamentally undermines the probity of the evidence,” said May. “Lacking oral cross-examination, the written questions were never answered by the experts or those who did studies and reviews, but by Trans Mountain’s legal team. Nearly every intervener complained that answers were non-responsive.”
While this review process is continuing, Fenton of 350.org says that actions are still planned across the country to fight it. Tomorrow, on January 23, a rally will be held in partnership with ForestEthics, outside of the hearings in Burnaby.
The review process wraps up in Burnaby on January 29, then ends with a final session in Calgary from February 2 through February 5. A decision about the pipeline is expected to be made in May.
Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen’s University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen’s News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble’s News Intern.
Photo: flickr/ Mark Klotz