This morning, the new Energy East panel ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) review of Energy East must be restarted from scratch. All decisions made by the previous review panel, which was forced to resign due to a perception of bias, were declared void.
This is big news, and the right move by the new Energy East review panel. But for the new review of Energy East to be credible, the process cannot be restarted until the reform of the NEB and Canada’s environmental assessment laws is complete.
Last fall, the previous NEB panel reviewing the proposed Energy East tar sands pipeline was forced to resign over a perception of bias after holding backroom meetings with a TransCanada lobbyist. Environmental Defence, our allies and our supporters argued for months that the only legal path forward was to void the Energy East proceedings and go back to the start.
Today the new Energy East panel listened and did exactly that.
The voiding of the decisions to date includes the previous panel’s ruling that deemed TransCanada’s application complete, as well as decisions on who was allowed to intervene in the review.
Technically, TransCanada doesn’t have to resubmit the Energy East application that it filed in 2014. But the pipeline game has changed since 2014.
Canada has ratified the Paris climate agreement and committed to do its part to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It has forged a national climate framework to reduce emissions 30 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. An important part of the framework is Alberta’s cap on tar sands emissions, set at 100 megatonnes per year and enshrined in law.
New energy projects, including pipelines, should not proceed unless they are aligned with Canada’s climate commitments and the Alberta tar sands emissions cap. And there will be no mechanism for ensuring this alignment until the reform of the NEB is complete.
The need to wait to restart the review of Energy East is even clearer in light of the federal government’s recent approval of Line 3 and Kinder Morgan. If built, these projects would facilitate over one million additional barrels per day of pipeline capacity, approaching or exceeding the Alberta emissions cap and making Canada’s climate commitments extremely difficult to meet.
Building either Keystone XL or Energy East would mean kissing the Alberta cap and Canada’s climate commitments goodbye.
Let’s be clear, today’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without communities, First Nations and Canadians speaking out against the discredited NEB process. The next logical step is to keep the review of Energy East on hold until the flawed pipeline regulator is overhauled.
The federal NEB modernization panel is in place and it started gathering public input across the country. This is our chance to fix the NEB. A cornerstone of a reformed NEB must be a credible climate test. If energy projects don’t fit with Canada’s climate commitments, they will be rejected outright. That way we won’t need to fight wrong-headed pipeline projects anymore.
Please take a moment and tell the government to fix the broken NEB, once and for all.