New panel reviewing Energy East Pipeline voids past decisions
CALGARY – The new National Energy Board panel tasked with reviewing the Energy East pipeline has decided to throw out all of the decisions made by the previous panel, which stepped down after concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
The board said Friday all hearing steps and related deadlines for the TransCanada Corp. project are no longer applicable as the new panel begins its review.
TransCanada spokesman Tim Duboyce said they will be reviewing the NEB’s decision to understand its impact on the project and the company, but that the project remains important.
“Energy East remains of critical strategic importance because it will end the need for refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick to import hundreds of thousands of barrels of foreign oil every day, while improving overseas market access for Canadian oil,” said Duboyce in an email.
The previous Energy East pipeline panel stepped down after concerns were raised about a potential perception of bias after members met privately with Jean Charest while he was a paid TransCanada consultant.
A new panel was appointed earlier this month, with all three members committing not to speak with any members of the previous panel to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest.
Environmental groups cheered the decision Friday, but were quick to say any further hearings should be put on hold until the NEB completes its review of its pipeline assessment process.
“For the new review of Energy East to be credible, the process cannot be restarted until the reform of the National Energy Board and Canada’s environmental assessment laws is complete,” Environmental Defence’s Patrick DeRochie said in a statement.
“The federal government admitted that the current process is broken and appointed an expert panel to modernize the NEB.”
He said the Energy East review should include a climate test to show whether projects fit with Canada’s climate commitments.
The NEB noted that those who have already submitted an application to participate in the review process do not need to reapply. The new panel will review all of the filed applications and release a new list of participants.
The panel has also decided that the project applicants do not need to refile their applications.
The review panel will examine a proposed 4,500-kilometre pipeline that would carry 1.1-million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada and a marine terminal in New Brunswick.
The board says the previous panel’s decisions have also been rendered void for TransCanada’s Eastern Mainline natural gas pipeline application, which was submitted along with Energy East because some existing gas pipeline will be converted to oil under the Energy East plan.
The Eastern Mainline consists of 279 kilometres of proposed new gas pipeline and related components in four sections, beginning near Markham, Ont., and finishing near Brouseville, Ont.
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