Ottawa announces new National Energy Board members to review Energy East pipeline
Current board members recused themselves after it was learned they met with consultant for developer
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has announced the appointment of three new temporary National Energy Board members to review TransCanada's Energy East pipeline.
Don Ferguson, a former top bureaucrat in New Brunswick, Carole Malo, a seasoned accountant and consultant from Ontario, and Marc Paquin, a lawyer and professor from Quebec focussed on environmental law, are the three bilingual panellists Carr picked to study the 4,500-kilometre pipeline, which will carry oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada.
"The National Energy Board is responsible for reviewing important major energy projects. I am confident these three individuals and the skills they bring will ensure the NEB is properly equipped to carry out this important role," said Carr, who represents Winnipeg South Centre.
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In September, 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, to discuss the pipeline. They are still NEB board members, and have since been reassigned to review other projects.
Those resignations derailed the process, which had also been rocked by protests from anti-pipeline activists in Montreal.
The chair or acting chair of the NEB is ultimately responsible for assigning new board members to specific duties, but the current chair, Peter Watson, had to step away from making any decisions related to Energy East after he, too, met with Charest.
Thus, David Hamilton, a board member from Sidney, B.C., will now reconstitute the board.
"On the appointments today, there isn't much to say since it isn't really the place of a project developer to comment on the process," Tim Duboyce, a spokesperson for the proponent, TransCanada, said in an email to CBC News.
"What I can say is that we will await further instructions from the NEB on what the next steps will be. And we certainly look forward to engaging with Canadians on the Energy East project during the regulatory process."
Duboyce said the pipeline will reduce GHG emissions, because refineries in Canada's east will shake its reliance on foreign oil imports. It will also create 14,000 direct and indirect jobs annually across Canada during development and construction, he said.
No change to timeline
Under the previous Conservative government, the board was given the power to do environmental assessments and public consultations under specific, limited timelines.
Carr granted an extension to the NEB's review process in April, giving the board 21 months to study the $15.7-billion project and report back to cabinet with its assessment as to whether construction should proceed.
The minister has previously said there could be "modest" delays to the review after the departure of the previous board members.
However, a spokesperson for the NEB told CBC News Monday the panel still has its eyes on the March 2018 deadline.
"At this point, there is no change to the time limit for the review of the Energy East Project," Sarah Kiley said in an email.
The new appointments come a month after Carr also named a five-person panel to begin nationwide consultations on reforming the NEB in its entirety.
Environmental activists have said the NEB is too close to energy companies to carry out an impartial assessment of environmental impacts.
"There is no credible way that this review can re-start under the Harper-era rules," Keith Stewart, the head of Greenpeace Canada's climate and energy campaign, said.
"Since it has to go back to square one, let's do it right and use the modernized environmental review process promised by Trudeau during the election campaign.