National Energy Board again recommends Trans Mountain Expansion

Up to federal cabinet to decide whether it should approve construction of the project for which it paid $4.5 billion for the parent company

Calgary – When the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline on Aug. 30, 2018, the project, which had just started significant construction, swiftly ground to a halt and thousands of jobs were extinguished. The court ordered a reconsideration of the project by the National Energy Board (NEB).

On Feb. 22, the NEB delivered its Reconsideration report to the Government of Canada, with an overall recommendation that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is in the Canadian public interest and should be approved.

The NEB will impose 156 conditions on the Project if it is approved, and has made 16 new recommendations to the Government of Canada. The recommendations relate to matters that fall outside of the NEB’s regulatory mandate, but within the authority of the Government of Canada.

The Reconsideration report concludes that project-related marine shipping is “likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale,” the NEB said in a release.

The NEB also found that greenhouse gas emissions from project-related marine vessels would likely be significant. While a credible worst-case spill from the Project or a Project-related marine vessel is not likely, if it were to occur the environmental effects would be significant. While these effects weighed heavily in the NEB’s consideration of project-related marine shipping, the NEB recommends that the Government of Canada find that they can be justified in the circumstances, in light of the considerable benefits of the Project and measures to minimize the effects.

The NEB said considerable benefits of the project include increased access to diverse markets for Canadian oil; jobs created across Canada; the development of capacity of local and Indigenous individuals, communities and businesses; direct spending on pipeline materials in Canada; and considerable revenues to various levels of government.

The Reconsideration specifically examined the impacts of project-related marine shipping related to the application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the Species at Risk Act (SARA) , as per the Government’s direction to the NEB in September 2018. The NEB has completed the Reconsideration within the 155 day timeline required by the Government of Canada.

If the project is approved by the Government, the company must comply with 156 conditions, covering a wide range of matters including: emergency preparedness and response, protection of the environment; consultation with affected Indigenous communities; socio-economic matters; pipeline safety and integrity; commercial support for the Project prior to construction; and financial responsibility on the part of the company.

In addition, the NEB has made 16 recommendations to the Government of Canada related to project-related marine shipping, including: cumulative effects management for the Salish Sea, measures to offset increased underwater noise and increased strike risk posted to SARA-listed marine mammal and fish species, marine oil spill response, marine shipping and small vessel safety, reduction of GHG emissions from marine vessels, and the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee for the Project.

Dr. Robert Steedman, Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board, said, “As indicated in the NEB’s report, the NEB has delivered a comprehensive, evidence-based, fair and meaningful review of project-related marine shipping, within the timeline required by the Government of Canada. The NEB listened to a range of diverse views and carefully considered all of the evidence submitted, the results of which are reflected in the conclusions, conditions and recommendations presented in the report.”

The NEB was given 155 days to complete its reconsideration. In the Reconsideration hearing, there were

There were 118 intervenors who participated, including 52 Indigenous groups and individuals, and 8 federal government departments. Written evidence was file d by 81 intervenors. Another 44 intervenors asked information requests of other parties (including of Trans Mountain and federal government departments). There were 25 individual oral traditional evidence sessions in Calgary, Victoria and Nanaimo.

The NEB’s Reconsideration report has now been submitted to the Government of Canada. The report is one of the factors that the Government will consider when making the final decision on whether or not the project should proceed.

Moe reacts

Premier Scott Moe was in Washington, D.C., attending a state governors’ conference along with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Ontario Premier Doug Ford when the NEB released its report. Speaking to reporters by phone, Moe said, “We’re in a challenging environment with respect to our regulatory environment in the energy industry, but also in our broader industrial industry. This particular project, I think it was six or seven years ago now, that Kinder Morgan had made the decision to go forward with this project and go forward with the application process.

“Here we are, six, seven years later, not a lot closer to seeing the project actually constructed, and each of you in that room, and myself, are now shareholders in the project.

“We need to have the broader conversation around a regulatory framework that works for our environment, works for economy, and actually allows private investors to come in and look at these projects and move them forward in a reasonable period of time.

“I understand there’s been some challenges through the existing Environmental Assessment Act. The options to that are to adjust it so that it works better, or to introduce a new piece of legislation. The federal government has chosen to introduce a new piece of legislation known as Bill C-69. Bill C-69, in our opinion, and in many in industry’s opinion, is not the answer. It does move those goal posts further away and actually vibrate them around, if you will,” Moe said.

“We need to find regulatory certainty as we move forward, and I fear Bill C-69 will not provide us with that.”

Moe also commented on the defunct Energy East Pipeline project, which he and Higgs were promoting in Moosomin the week before. Moe said, “How do we add value to some of the products that we have across Canada, as opposed to right in Saskatchewan? There would be no greater place to start than a project like Energy East, and taking a sustainable energy source out to New Brunswick and adding an upgrader facility and putting New Brunswickers to work, creating a higher value product, displacing a dirtier product from around the world.”

 

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