The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications
Overhaul Energy Board to unlock pipeline paralysis
December 7, 2016
Ottawa – The National Energy Board should be modernized and given a broader mandate to consider environmental and Indigenous concerns when hearing pipeline proposals, senators said Wednesday.
A stronger, more inclusive and less political regulatory process is an essential first step towards expanding Canada’s energy infrastructure in a way that maximizes economic benefit and minimizes environmental risk while achieving broader public consensus.
Modernizing the energy board is among the recommendations the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications has made in its interim report called Pipelines for Oil: Protecting our economy, respecting our environment.
The committee is formulating a strategy to facilitate the transport of crude oil to Canada’s east and west coasts to reduce Canada’s dependence on foreign oil and to open up access to more lucrative global markets.
Proposed pipeline projects must be reviewed by the National Energy Board, but the board is limited to analyzing projects’ technical aspects, like safety and economic viability.
Allowing the board to consider environmental and Indigenous concerns would make the regulatory process more legitimate and productive. The committee is specifically recommending establishing a permanent Indigenous peoples’ representative on the board to provide assurances to Indigenous communities that the board is receptive to their views.
The committee is also recommending removing final approval for board decisions from the Governor in Council (the Governor General, acting on the advice of cabinet). The current requirement for final approval from cabinet virtually guarantees the regulatory process is highly politicized rather than decided on the merits of the proposal at hand.
Expanding Canada’s pipeline network is an economic imperative. Pipeline paralysis is costing the Canadian economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The lack of energy infrastructure leaves Eastern Canada dependent on foreign oil while the vast majority of the oil that Canada exports is sold at a steep discount to the oil-rich United States.
- In 2015, pipeline operations added $11.5 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and sustained 34,000 full-time jobs.
- The Trans Mountain Expansion and the proposed Energy East project would generate a combined $77.6 billion in additional GDP.
- The committee is recommending that the deep water port at the Strait of Canso in Nova Scotia be considered as an alternate endpoint for the proposed Energy East pipeline to lessen the volume of tanker traffic in the environmentally-sensitive Bay of Fundy.
“Pipeline construction in Canada has been become political and divisive. The National Energy Board is not equipped to address valid environmental and Indigenous concerns. Canada needs a more inclusive, rational and fact-based regulatory process if we are to undertake the much-needed expansion of our energy infrastructure.”
- Senator Michael L. MacDonald, Deputy Chair of the committee
“Like the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway almost 150 years ago, pipeline construction is an exercise in nation building. An expanded pipeline network will ensure more Canadians share in economic benefits from the Western oil patch while enhancing our ability to get our oil to tidewater and to global markets that offer better prices.”
- Senator Terry Mercer, Member of the committee
- Read the report, Pipelines for Oil: Protecting our economy, respecting our environment.
- Read about the committee’s fact-finding missions to Western Canada and Eastern Canada.
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #TRCM.
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