NEB: Rid­ers on the Storm

Since the very begin­ning, the Trudeau gov­ern­ment has promised to re­form the NEB and earn back the trust of Cana­di­ans. But not ev­ery­one will be happy with the changes what­ever they may be

Alberta Oil - - CONTENTS - By Markham His­lop

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment promised to re­form the NEB and earn back the trust of Cana­di­ans. Not ev­ery­one will be happy with the changes.

When the Trudeau Lib­er­als are through, Cana­di­ans won’t rec­og­nize the re­view process for en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture projects. “Mod­ern­iz­ing” the Na­tional En­ergy Board (NEB) has at­tracted much of the en­ergy in­dus­try’s at­ten­tion, but the gov­ern­ment’s ef­fort is much more com­pre­hen­sive than that, in­clud­ing a re­view of na­tional en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments and changing the Fish­eries and Nav­i­ga­tion Pro­tec­tion leg­is­la­tion. Ot­tawa says dwin­dling pub­lic con­fi­dence was the im­pe­tus for the over­haul. Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Jim Carr says mod­ern­iza­tion is “de­signed to re­store pub­lic con­fi­dence in the process.” That may be so, but what brave new world will con­front en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture pro­po­nents when the Lib­er­als are fin­ished?

The source of the pub­lic dis­con­tent isn’t hard to iden­tify. First Na­tions and eco-ac­tivist op­po­nents of the North­ern Gate­way and Trans Moun­tain pipe­line projects sys­tem­at­i­cally un­der­mined the NEB’s le­git­i­macy, ar­gu­ing that it was in the pocket of the en­ergy in­dus­try.

A steady drum­beat of me­dia crit­i­cism and protest stunts, in­clud­ing the lateAu­gust storm­ing of an NEB panel meet­ing in Mon­treal, com­bined with a dis­taste for for­mer Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s cheer­lead­ing for pipe­lines, eroded pub­lic sup­port for the na­tional reg­u­la­tor. A March EKOS Re­search poll com­mis­sioned by CBC showed that only 10 per­cent of Cana­di­ans gave the NEB high marks on trust­wor­thi­ness.

On the cam­paign trail in 2015, Lib­eral leader Justin Trudeau promised changes at the reg­u­la­tor and those changes are now un­der­way.

“The goal is to ask all of the right ques­tions, put ev­ery­thing on the ta­ble, and emerge with a set of pro­cesses that re­flect the re­al­i­ties of 2016, that re­spect the im­por­tance of part­ner­ships and mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tions with in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties that un­der­stand we have in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic obli­ga­tions to limit green­house gas emis­sions,” Carr says. “Our strat­egy is to cre­ate a process, and room for all Cana­di­ans who have an in­ter­est in ma­jor projects, to ex­press them­selves.”

The process will be led by an ex­pert panel work­ing un­der the purview of En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna. Panel chair Jo­hanne Géli­nas is a part­ner at the sus­tain­abil­ity man­age­ment prac­tice, Ray­mond Chabot Grant Thorn­ton, and other mem­bers in­clude a re­tired bu­reau­crat, a min­ing ex­ec­u­tive, and two lawyers. The panel trav­elled the coun­try con­sult­ing with Cana­di­ans from Septem­ber to mid-De­cem­ber and is re­quired to sub­mit a re­port by March 31—a daunt­ing dead­line given the scope of their man­date. At the same time, min­is­ters in charge of the NEB: Carr, fish­eries min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc, and trans­port min­is­ter, Marc Garneau, are “man­dated to carry out re­views and pro­pose re­forms to mat­ters that in­ter­sect with en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment,” ac­cord­ing to the Gov­ern­ment of Canada.

The fo­cus for the oil and gas in­dus­try, of course, is the NEB. Carr’s re­form man- date reads, “[to] mod­ern­ize the Na­tional En­ergy Board to en­sure that its com­po­si­tion re­flects re­gional views and has suf­fi­cient ex­per­tise in fields such as en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence, com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and In­dige­nous tra­di­tional knowl­edge.” This would ap­pear to be a shift in fo­cus for the NEB, and Gae­tan Caron—NEB chair from 2007 to 2014, among the most tu­mul­tuous years for the agency—is not happy about the new direc­tion. “If you looked at the last five years, all the crit­i­cism di­rected at the NEB process is not spe­cific to any error the board made in its judge­ment or in its pro­ce­dural choices,” Caron says. “The fun­da­men­tal crit­i­cism di­rected at the NEB is a di­rect crit­i­cism of the pol­icy choices un­der the terms of Mr. Harper’s gov­ern­ment ap­proach to cli­mate change.”

From Caron’s point of view, pipe­lines have be­come a proxy for the fight over green­house gas emis­sions and in­ter­na­tional agree­ments like the Paris ac­cord, and that has put the NEB on the front lines of a bat­tle it is not equipped to fight. The NEB is guided by the Na­tional En­ergy Board Act, which re­flects the con­sti­tu­tional di­vi­sion of pow­ers be­tween the Cana­dian and provin­cial gov­ern­ments, he says. The NEB can­not ex­am­ine the im­pact of up­stream emis­sions be­cause that falls un­der provin­cial ju­ris­dic­tion. And even though it is a fed­er­ally cre­ated agency, the NEB can­not as­sume the author­ity of the Crown with re­spect to First Na­tions. “These are mat­ters that the Board found in the past to be out­side of the rel­e­vant con­sid­er­a­tions it had to look at in the pipe­line ex­am­i­na­tion,” he said.

There are re­ally two world views in play—and in con­flict—here. One is the more nar­row, tech­ni­cal and tra­di­tional view of the en­ergy reg­u­la­tor rep­re­sented by Caron, Harper and the Con­ser­va­tives, and the in­dus­try. Then there is the “glob­al­ist ap­proach to cli­mate change,” as Caron calls it, rep­re­sented by Trudeau and the Lib­er­als. The key ques­tion for in­dus­try, as Al­berta’s oil sands pro­duc­ers pre­pare to add an­other one mil­lion b/d by 2025 and worry about get­ting prod­uct to mar­ket, is where the Trudeau gov­ern­ment lies on the con­tin­uum be­tween the cli­mate change zeal of eco-activists and the eco­nomic re­al­i­ties of pipe­line op­er­a­tors and pro­duc­ers. Re­cent pipe­line de­ci­sions by Ot­tawa of­fer a clue.

In late Novem­ber, the Prime Min­is­ter gave the green light for Kinder Mor­gan’s Trans Moun­tain ex­pan­sion (from Ed­mon­ton to Burn­aby) and the re­place­ment of En­bridge’s Line 3 (Hardisty to Man­i­toba’s bor­der with Min­nesota). He said both pipe­lines were in the na­tional in­ter­est and “that ma­jor pipe­lines could only get built if we had a price on car­bon, and strong en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions in place. We said that In­dige­nous peo­ples must be re­spected, and be a part of the process.”

In­dus­try can rea­son­ably as­sume fu­ture pipe­line re­views will be based upon the world­view re­flected in Trudeau’s speech. That means com­plet­ing the process laid out for the ex­pert panel and the de­part­ments, then draft­ing new leg­is­la­tion for Par­lia­ment, and even­tu­ally re-or­ga­niz­ing the bu­reau­cracy and the reg­u­la­tor.

How all the pieces will fit and how the new process will work won’t be clear for an­other year—or per­haps two, if the changes are suf­fi­ciently con­tro­ver­sial. But the gen­eral prin­ci­ples are fairly clear: a big­ger role for In­dige­nous peo­ples, a more open and con­sul­ta­tive process, at­ten­tion to up­stream emis­sions, and greater at­ten­tion to cli­mate mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies. If the Trudeau gov­ern­ment can build a work­able process that is pre­dictable and not too oner­ous, there is a chance in­dus­try may have a way out of the morass of the past decade.

In­dus­try can as­sume that fu­ture pipe­line re­views will be based upon the world­view re­flected in Trudeau’s speech

Anti-pipe­line protesters shut down a Mon­teal hear­ing of the Na­tional en­ergy Board on Au­gust 29, 2016

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.