Energy East pipeline's chances of being built doubted after panel quits
National Energy Board still hopes to finish review process by March 18, 2018
A bank analyst says the chance that the Energy East pipeline project will be built has fallen to 25 per cent from 33 per cent after members of a regulatory panel were forced to resign last week.
CIBC analyst Robert Hope said in a note to clients that poor prospects have gotten worse for the controversial $15.7-billion pipeline, which would bring about 1.1-million barrels of oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern Canada refineries and a marine terminal in New Brunswick.
On Friday, the National Energy Board announced its three Energy East panellists had recused themselves following complaints that two of them met with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, a consultant for developer TransCanada at the time, last year to discuss the pipeline.
The Calgary-based regulator also said board chairman Peter Watson and vice-chairwoman Lyne Mercier will not be involved in choosing a new panel to resume hearings at a later date to avoid "an apprehension of bias."
NEB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley says a new panel will be chosen by a temporary NEB chair from a roster of board members slated to grow with new temporary appointments made by the federal government. She says the new board members are necessary to ensure enough panellists are available to serve who are bilingual.
She adds the regulator still hopes to finish its review process by its current deadline of March 18, 2018, but that timeline may be extended if necessary to ensure a thorough review.
Analyst Dirk Lever of AltaCorp Capital in Calgary says the pipeline regulatory process has become so "murky and "messy" due to political pressure that it's difficult to say that any pipeline approval can be assured.
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