We’ve been saying for nearly a year that the review of the proposed Energy East pipeline lacks credibility and needs to be delayed until National Energy Board (NEB) Modernization is complete. Now the governments of Quebec and Ontario are following suit and raising their own concerns about the pipeline’s review. Will the federal government listen?
In June, Ontario’s Minister of Energy and Quebec’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources wrote to the federal government with concerns about the status and credibility of the NEB’s review of Energy East. The review is proceeding at the same time the NEB itself is being fundamentally overhauled.
The Quebec government went one step further last week. When prompted by a journalist’s inquiry about the joint letter with Ontario, Quebec’s Minister of Energy said that the review of the Energy East pipeline should be delayed until NEB Modernization is complete. The request was made again the next day in an impromptu comment made by Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard.
So far as we know, the Ontario government hasn’t gone as far as Quebec to explicitly call for a postponement of the pipeline’s review. But it appears that the governments of Canada’s two largest provinces recognize that if the review of Energy East proceeds using an outdated, discredited NEB process, an escalating crisis of credibility will plague the review down the road.
The proposed Energy East pipeline would stretch 4,600 km across six provinces, bringing tar sands oil from Alberta to the Atlantic Ocean. It would cross nearly 3,000 waterways along the way, putting the drinking water of nearly 5 million Canadians at risk. It is strongly opposed by communities and First Nations along the route. And every year it would add carbon pollution equivalent to Ontario’s mothballed coal plants.
Last year, the NEB panel reviewing Energy East was forced to resign following a conflict-of-interest scandal. The new NEB panel is trying to get the review back on track—at the same time that the NEB itself is being modernized and Canada’s environmental laws are being overhauled.
It is our expectation that the proposed changes to the NEB and Canada’s environmental laws will lead to a significantly more stringent review process for major energy projects, especially pipelines that pose such big risks to our land, air, and water. In fact, once NEB Modernization is complete, the NEB might not exist at all! That would make Energy East the last tar sands pipeline to be reviewed by the scandal-plagued NEB.
Does it make sense to review the longest, largest tar sands pipeline ever proposed in North America using a process that everyone agrees is broken and is in the midst of being overhauled? Absolutely not.
Canadians have lost confidence in the NEB review process, which is why the review of Energy East should be delayed until NEB Modernization and environmental law reform is complete. Furthermore, TransCanada’s application to the NEB for the proposed Energy East pipeline is not even complete, as demonstrated by the company’s failure to say how the pipeline will cross the Ottawa, Saint Lawrence and Assiniboine Rivers. And TransCanada is fighting the NEB’s proposal to evaluate Energy East’s climate impacts, marine tanker impacts, and the economic need for the pipeline in a low-carbon world.
Delaying the review of Energy East until the NEB is modernized would allow these issues to be clarified and addressed.
The only reasonable thing to do is to put the review of Energy East on hold until the NEB is overhauled. We’ve being saying this since day one. Now Quebec and Ontario are catching on and joining the chorus calling for a credible review process. Let’s hope the federal government gets the point.