The federal government must overhaul the National Energy Board (NEB), especially its environmental assessments, before any more harm is done to eastern Canada. The NEB has altered its mandate to regulate pipelines and energy development. It is failing to factor in economic and social considerations that represent the interests and concerns of all Canadians.
The board’s latest decision to throw a potentially fatal roadblock in the path of TransCanada’s $15.7 billion, 4,500 km Energy East pipeline is a gross over-reach of its mandate. It is ignoring the economic concerns of eastern Canada where provincial governments, businesses and residents are in favour of the pipeline.
At almost the same time that hurricane Harvey was battering Houston, shutting down refineries and sending oil prices soaring across Canada, the NEB decided to overstep its powers and cripple our country’s access to its own oil. Just when it was evident that eastern Canada should not be held hostage to offshore oil issues, the NEB thumbed its nose at the region.
TransCanada plans to pump approximately one million barrels a day through the Energy East pipeline to refineries in Montreal and – of special interest to Atlantic Canada – the huge Irving Oil refinery in Saint John. Thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in construction costs are at stake, nowhere more so than New Brunswick. The pipeline will provide a secure supply of Canadian oil, which helps Alberta and our national economy, and end the need to import hundreds of thousands of barrels of foreign oil every day. Three years after submitting its application, TransCanada is still waiting for a decision.
Environmental groups had pushed for the Energy East review to include a climate test. The recent decision to consider indirect greenhouse gas emissions in evaluating the pipeline is a capitulation to those groups and a cause of grave concern.
The board has changed the rules midway through the process and generated outrage from provincial governments in New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan. To no one’s surprise, TransCanada is putting its application on hold. Many consider the project is dead. TransCanada hints the pipeline could be cancelled unless there are some immediate and major changes to the NEB.
The NEB decision on so-called upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions could also derail any future energy developments in Canada and opens up other sectors to the same new rules. Will utilities, auto manufacturing, rail lines or trucking companies now be subject to an emissions test?
The federal government should step in to get the review process back on track and clarify the role and mandate of the NEB. Oil is necessary to our survival and way of life – today and well into the foreseeable future - even as the world transitions to cleaner fuels.
Protecting the environment should not mean the death knell for any new pipelines. The NEB is withdrawing into a dream world of electric cars and solar and wind power.
It gets very cold in Canada during the winter. That’s the reality. Deal with it.