New Brunswick

Energy East public hearings begin Aug. 8 in Saint John

Public hearings on TransCanada Corp.'s 38,885-page application to build the Energy East pipeline will begin Aug. 8 in Saint John.

The National Energy Board promises that any Canadian who wants to take part in the project will be heard

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)

Public hearings on TransCanada's 38,885-page application to build the Energy East pipeline will begin on Aug. 8 in Saint John.

"This review will be unlike any other in the NEB's history," said National Energy Board director Jean-Denis Charlebois at a news conference in Calgary on Thursday. 

The board also promised that any Canadian who wants to take part in the project will be heard.

More than 2,600 people applied to be intervenors or commenters in the sessions that will be led by three NEB panelists and attended by representatives from TransCanada.

The official short list, if it is a shortlist, is expected to be released within days.

Full participants, or intervenors, will be able to ask questions of TransCanada, and whatever evidence those intervenors  present will also be subject to examination.

Anybody from the public ... will be able to participate.- National Energy Board

While Saint John is the starting point for these hearings, no cross-country schedule has yet been released.

That's also expected to come out this month.

The panel has to travel along 4,500 kilometres of proposed pipeline route from Saint John to Hardisty, Alta.

The hearings will be streamed online and transcripts of oral testimony will also be made available the next day, in both official languages.

Second stream for input

Outside the formal panel hearings, the National Energy Board says it will provide a second stream for public input.

"Anybody from the public, including those who are not included in the list of participants for the Energy East hearing, will be able to participate," said the NEB's revised backgrounder.

The review timeline has already been extended by the Trudeau government to 21 months and another extension may be granted by Ottawa.

Or, the panel could request a time out, essentially stopping the clock if there's new evidence or a compelling reason to interrupt the hearing process, temporarily.

Currently, the NEB has committed to producing a final report in March of 2018.

TransCanada has now pegged the capital cost of Energy East at $15.7 billion, compared to an earlier estimate of $12 billion.

The NEB says it will also continue to hear oral traditional evidence from Aboriginal participants in 2016 and 2017.