NEB pipeline review should delve deeper into Bay of Fundy impact, group says
Board says it will look at impact of upstream and downstream emissions from increased oil consumption
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick gave a "thumbs up" to Canada's national energy regulator on Wednesday for saying it will consider the impact of carbon pollution in its review of the Energy East pipeline.
But executive director Lois Corbett said she's also given the National Energy Board a "thumbs down" for not considering more environmental impacts caused by the transport of oil across the region and the Bay of Fundy.
The NEB released a list of topics Wednesday that it plans to consider in its review of Energy East project — a proposed 4,500-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to Saint John.
I don't understand why the NEB refused to acknowledge that any increase in super oil tanker traffic will have an impact on the Bay of Fundy .- Lois Corbett , Conservation Council of New Brunswick
It will look at the effect of meeting greenhouse gas emission targets on the financial viability and need for the pipeline.
The NEB said it will also consider the impact of upstream and downstream emissions from potential increased consumption of oil, and the pipeline's effect on marine traffic in the Bay of Fundy.
"They went forward and said, with a bit of limitations, that they would indeed consider [greenhouse gas emissions] because climate change, carbon pollution is in the public interest," said Corbett.
"So it seems to me they got that right."
'Skirted the issue'
However, Corbett said the NEB "skirted the issue" when it said it would look at the impact of more tankers arriving in the Bay of Fundy, without also considering the ships' potential environmental effects.
"If we are going to have an assessment that scientifically, from an evidence-based perspective, looks at the Bay of Fundy as an ecosystem, not just as the 401 for oil tankers, then they need to not fob it off on some voluntary review process, which the board said they would do," she said.
"I don't understand why the NEB refused to acknowledge that any increase in super oil tanker traffic will have an impact on the Bay of Fundy."
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Other criteria the NEB previously proposed for its review included whether new electricity generator will be needed to provide power to pipeline pumping stations, and the effect of oil spills.
On Wednesday, the NEB said the hearing panel noted "the public's interest in better understanding the risks associated with potential accidents and system malfunctions that may, for example, lead to an oil spill into the environment."
"As a result, the assessment will provide more visibility to the evaluation of such scenarios, their potential consequences, the proposed mitigation and response measures, as well as the preventative programs aimed at reducing or eliminating risk factors," it said in a press release.
The NEB said it based its decision in part on 820 public submissions it received since last spring. But not everyone was likely to agree with it.
In a letter to the NEB, Irving Oil previously said a review of freighter traffic in the Bay of Fundy "may be unnecessary."
While freighter traffic will increase if the pipeline is built, marine shipping in the bay is already monitored by Transport Canada's Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems and Transhipment Sites, it said.
Irving also said said the board should not consider the pipeline's effect on "downstream emissions" caused by end users of gas and other petroleum products and on marine traffic in the Bay of Fundy.
The company said its customers will use "relatively the same" amount of fuel, and produce the same level of greenhouse gas emissions, whether Irving-refined oil comes through the Energy East pipeline from Alberta or from other sources in the U.S. or overseas.
TransCanada predicted as many as 281 large tankers per year will load oil from the pipeline.
Some of the oil would be refined at the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John but most would be shipped overseas through an export terminal on the Bay of Fundy co-owned by Irving and TransCanada Corp., the pipeline builder.
NB Power said in its response to the panel that there would need to be new transmission lines to power the pumping stations. Those lines would require a provincial environmental impact assessment, the utility said.
Review previously suspended
The NEB review was suspended last year after protesters interrupted hearings in Montreal.
A month later, the three-member review panel recused itself after it was revealed two members had discussed the project with Jean Charest, a former Quebec premier and a consultant for TransCanada.
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The new NEB panel will now invite public comment on the completeness of TransCanada's applications before issuing a hearing schedule.
Its assessment will cover a broad range of topics, including Indigenous participation, landowner and municipal considerations, environmental effects and socio-economic factors.
"Today's decision establishes the foundations for a thorough assessment based on science, traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples, and other relevant evidence," it said.
With files from Shane Fowler, Jacques Poitras