Energy East pipeline

TransCanada's proposed Energy East project must be approved by the National Energy Board. One author is questioning the impartiality of the NEB's board members. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

The National Energy Board’s impartiality when it comes to making decisions on megaprojects, such as TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline project, is being questioned by an author.

The National Energy Board has been asked to decide the fate of the Energy East pipeline.

TransCanada Corp. has submitted a formal application for the project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta eastward to refineries in eastern Canada.

Andrew Nikiforuk, an author and journalist who has written extensively about the NEB and its rulings, said most board members are lawyers or engineers with ties to the oil and gas industry.

“But there's no public health expert. There is no expert in environmental assessment, there is no pipeline safety expert, there is no representative from First Nations, there's no representative or expert from fisheries, no oil spill or contaminant expert," he said.

"It's a very striking board, it's a board of white people, mostly Conservatives, all based in Calgary, all with very similar backgrounds, whose job is largely to facilitate the pipeline approval in the country.”

The composition of the NEB is "intentional," Nikiforuk said.

Members of the board apply for the position and are then appointed by the federal government.

Whitney Punchak, a spokesperson for the energy board, said candidates are chosen based on experience, background and what they can bring to the table.

TransCanada Corp. has filed 30,000 pages worth of documents outlining the project which, if completed, will take oil for more than 4,600 kilometres across six Canadian provinces.

The pipeline would bring crude oil to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John. 

TransCanada is also planning a joint venture with Irving Oil for a new $300-million deep-water marine terminal.