Energy East pipeline review to include 'enhanced' public input, NEB says

The National Energy Board's hearings into the proposed Energy East pipeline will offer more opportunities for the public to participate, officials said at a news conference in Calgary as they kicked of the formal process.

Pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada would carry 1.1M barrels of oil to Eastern Canada

NEB director Jean-Denis Charlebois says the enhanced public input sessions in the Energy East review process will make it unlike any in Canada's history. (CBC)

The National Energy Board's hearings into the proposed Energy East pipeline will be "innovative," including many opportunities for the public to participate, officials said at a news conference in Calgary as they kicked of the formal process Thursday morning.

In addition to the regular hearings conducted by three members of the federal board, the review of TransCanada's proposed 4,500-kilometre pipeline will see other board members visit communities along the route to hear directly from members of the public, the NEB announced. The first public session will be in Saint John on August 8. 

"This review will not be like any other in Canadian history," said NEB director Jean-Denis Charlebois. 

The public comments and input gathered in the public sessions will be included in a report to be submitted as evidence in the formal hearing.

"The NEB is deeply committed to engaging with Canadians," Charlebois said.

The beginning of the review process represents an important milestone after three years of scientific analysis and engagement with thousands of Canadians along the route, said TransCanada's Energy East president John Soini in a release.

"We look forward to participating this fall in the panel sessions to be held by the NEB along the proposed pipeline route, while continuing to actively listen and respond to input," he said.

The Energy East review will also include a separate assessment of its possible upstream greenhouse gas emissions in addition to the direct environmental impact of the pipeline, Charlebois said. 

21-month review

A list of participants for the formal hearing process will be released soon, along with a schedule, Charlebois said. 

The NEB has been given 21 months to carry out its review. Its final report is due no later than March 16, 2018. 

The Liberals have said a decision on the pipeline application isn't expected for at least another two years.

If approved, Energy East would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will be in Montreal on Thursday to meet Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard as part of his cross-country tour to advocate for building the $15.7-billion pipeline.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador formally declared its opposition to Energy East on Wednesday, adopting a resolution at a conference in Quebec City requesting that Ghislain Picard — the AFN chief for the region — lead opposition to pipeline, both inside and outside Quebec.

"I encourage Canadians to take part in the NEB's review as this will help inform our decision on Energy East." Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr said in a release.

The hearing panel will also review TransCanada's Eastern Mainline Project at the same time.

"Given the connections between the two projects, the board determined that the two applications were most effectively assessed within a single hearing," the NEB said in a release.