The latest delay in the proposed Energy East pipeline project review process has led some stakeholders to question its overall future.
The National Energy Board (N.E.B) has decided to begin the review process from scratch after the resignation of the three panel members because of a conflict of interest and the subsequent naming of their replacements last month. The original panel stepped down after concerns were raised of a possible conflict of interest after its members met privately with a consultant for the pipeline’s backer, TransCanada.
But some involved in the energy sector say another delay is not optimal.
“The longer that lead time prior to actually completing a project the more risk that’s involved and of course risk involves a degree of uncertainty and that’s never a good thing when there’s about $15 billion of development on the line,” said Colleen Mitchell of the Atlantica Centre for Energy.
Others, like Conservation Council of New Brunswick’s Matt Abbott, said they’d like a complete review of the board itself before hearings resume. He said he’s opposed to the board being in charge of the environmental review.
“People with technical expertise on building a pipeline can’t be expected to also have the needed expertise to really understand some of the environmental implications,” said Abbott, who is Fundy Baykeeper for the Council.
Not everyone is expressing frustration with the delay however.
Saint John MP Wayne Long tells Global News he’s pleased to see the N.E.B process is back on track.
The province and the City of Saint John have been strong proponents of the project.
“My understanding is that TransCanada has been communicating that they remain committed to the project and that it’s an important project for them,” said Don Darling, mayor of Saint John.
TransCanada admits Energy East remains of significant strategic importance, but says it will review the N.E.B. decision and its potential impact on both TransCanada and the project.
As for its ongoing viability, Mitchell points out companies that look long term when it comes to projects of this scale.
“In looking at the economics of a long term project that is going out 40 years, a proponent would not be focused on short term prices,” she said. “They would be looking at over the long term and is there a business case”.
There’s no word on when the pipeline hearings will resume.
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