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Revamping the NEB Process – If Not Right Now… When?

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When Kinder Morgan first introduced a proposal to threefold expand the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2013, few would have predicted that the review process itself would be as controversial as the actual proposal.

Jump ahead to today. Two years into the review, and the cost has increased, oil markets are in a prolonged slump, opposition to the project grows, and new governments in Ottawa and Edmonton have taken the reins of energy policy. All this, framed by uncertainty around how Canada’s oil sands and LNG development plans will square with our newly minted commitments signed in Paris at the COP21.

The new Liberal government has promised to revamp the National Energy Board (NEB) process, and in this promise CRED sees opportunity for real change. In fact, meaningful change seems so close, and the impacts so significant, that we see it as imperative that the process not just be tweaked at some undefined moment in the future. CRED and our members want the current process halted, and a new process built starting now. If we as a nation are going to contemplate an overall energy strategy in accordance with our international commitments, let’s do that NOW, while there are projects under review that could significantly hamstring or even compromise our ability to meet those commitments. Let’s do it so we can have a fair and transparent review of the Trans Mountain expansion, a project that could impact our province for years to come.

Let’s not forget that the current process is the same one that prompted two environmental organizations and over 35 individuals to publicly withdraw from the hearings. Economist Robyn Allan called the process “rigged” when she pulled out in May. There is also legal action against the NEB: the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has asked the Federal Court of Appeal to stop the review due to flaws in the process itself, and legal errors made by the NEB. Landowners, business people, academics and environmental advocates launched a constitutional challenge against the NEB on the basis that it unfairly restricts public participation and refuses to hear concerns related to climate change or oil sands development.

CRED was one of 100 signatories to a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, asking for a halt to the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline review prior to the historic Paris meetings. The government has stated that the two pipelines currently under review – the TMP and Energy East – will continue in a transitional review process, but it remains unclear what changes will be made, and when.

CRED wants to ensure that the federal government implements changes immediately to ensure that these pipelines are subject to a proper climate review, including both upstream and downstream impacts, and particularly taking into consideration the potential economic impacts to BC businesses.

We are crafting an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet to revise the NEB process now, so that the Trans Mountain expansion project will be reviewed under the new process. Look for our letter to be circulated; we value your thoughts and support.

Image via Flickr creative commons user rickz