Should the National Energy Board continue to do environmental assessments of pipeline projects?  Nature Canada doesn’t think so. 

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Adam Bond, Lawyer

On March 31, Nature Canada submitted 14 recommendations on improving the National Energy Board Act (including one on environmental assessment) to the National Energy Board Modernization Expert Panel. The Expert Panel has been tasked with the review of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) structure, role and mandate under the National Energy Board Act.

The NEB review is part of the Government of Canada’s broader environmental legislative reform process that is the best opportunity in a generation to develop environmental laws in Canada that conserve nature, address climate change and respect indigenous rights.

The NEB has suffered some significant losses in public confidence due to failures in effective oversight of the industry it is mandated with regulating, inappropriate relationships with the oil and gas industry and secret meetings between pipeline companies and Board members adjudicating on their pipeline applications. But “modernizing” the national energy regulator requires more than merely putting out the fires of today’s crisis-ridden Board – it needs to be about preparing for tomorrow’s energy.Image of a tree beside water

The Government of Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2050. To achieve this objective the government will need to focus on transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources, which means few, if any, national pipeline projects can be built in the future.

The role of Canada’s national energy regulator must shift from reviewing oil pipeline project applications to conducting exceptional oversight of existing pipeline infrastructure, accounting for GHG emissions from the energy sector and facilitating the transition to sustainable energy sources.

The modernization of the NEB should make a real impact on the country’s transition to sustainable energy sources, the conservation of nature, combating climate change and promoting justice. Because, if the next NEB Act is nothing more than a slightly improved version of the status quo, the federal government will be incapable of delivering on its commitments to fight climate change, respect indigenous rights and ensure that economic growth does not come at the expense of the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To read Nature Canada’s comments and recommendations to the expert panel, click here.

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