Agency over­haul

Panel rec­om­mends dis­man­tling Na­tional En­ergy Board, cre­at­ing bod­ies for reg­u­la­tion, growth

Cape Breton Post - - Business - BY MIA RAB­SON

A panel ad­vis­ing the govern­ment on how to over­haul the Na­tional En­ergy Board says the reg­u­la­tor should be dis­man­tled and re­placed with two new agen­cies, all within a more co­her­ent na­tional en­ergy pol­icy.

The five-mem­ber panel, ap­pointed last fall, pre­sented its re­port Mon­day morn­ing to Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Jim Carr. Af­ter months of pub­lic hear­ings and talk­ing to stake­hold­ers, the panel says the Na­tional En­ergy Board has been given an im­pos­si­ble task: reg­u­lat­ing the growth of the in­dus­try and mar­ry­ing its growth with the govern­ment’s cli­mate-change goals.

The panel rec­om­mends the govern­ment cre­ate a new na­tional strat­egy which in­cor­po­rates Ot­tawa’s pol­icy vi­sion on en­ergy, the en­vi­ron­ment, and the econ­omy.

And it says the govern­ment should take up to a year to it­self con­sider whether any new pro­ject pro­pos­als align with that vi­sion.

It rec­om­mends dis­man­tling the board and re­plac­ing it with two agen­cies to sep­a­rate the func­tions of reg­u­la­tion and re­view from the anal­y­sis and pro­duc­tion of en­ergy-re­lated in­for­ma­tion.

The govern­ment is ac­cept­ing com­ments on­line on the panel rec­om­men­da­tions un­til June 14.

The re­view ful­fills part of Carr’s min­is­te­rial man­date 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.”

The for­mer Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment passed leg­is­la­tion in 2012 that al­lowed cabi­net to over­ride the board’s re­jec­tion de­ci­sions. Prior to that change, cabi­net only saw projects the board had rec­om­mended for ap­proval.

The govern­ment ought not be able to over­turn a Na­tional En­ergy Board de­ci­sion ex­cept through the courts, Les­ley Matthews, an en­ergy in­dus­try con­sul­tant and for­mer Kinder Mor­gan Canada, wrote in a com­men­tary for the C.D. Howe In­sti­tute.

“What’s the point of go­ing through this process of hav­ing peo­ple present ev­i­dence and hav­ing the de­ci­sion made on ev­i­dence if it can just be made on non-ev­i­dence,” Matthews said in an in­ter­view.

At the same time, the govern­ment needs an en­ergy pol­icy frame­work for the coun­try that would serve as the guide­book to the na­tional reg­u­la­tor as to whether or not a par­tic­u­lar pro­ject fits Canada’s vi­sion.

A per­ceived con­flict of in­ter­est de­railed the board’s re­view process for the En­ergy East pipe­line pro­ject last year af­ter some of the ap­pointees met pri­vately with for­mer Que­bec Premier Jean Charest, who was lob­by­ing on be­half of Tran­sCanada Corp., the com­pany propos­ing the pro­ject.

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Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Jim Carr speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa on April 25. A panel ad­vis­ing the govern­ment on how to over­haul the Na­tional En­ergy Board says the reg­u­la­tor should be dis­man­tled and re­placed with two new agen­cies, all within a more co­her­ent na­tional en­ergy pol­icy.

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