Cuts to National Energy Board no joke
VANCOUVER—Living Oceans reacted with shock today to learn that the federal government intends to cut the budget of the National Energy Board, the sole regulator charged with both enhanced pipeline safety and the environmental assessment of dozens of projects.
“For a moment, we held out hope that it was an April Fools’ Day joke,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society. “But it seems the federal government is really hoping we’ll believe that they’ve enhanced the oversight of pipeline and tanker projects because they said so, even though they’re cutting back on the NEB’s capacity.”
The NEB has been criticized of late for its apparent inability to run an effective process under new rules introduced by the Harper government in 2012. The process has become so unwieldy and the time constraints so onerous that the value of participation in the hearings is severely degraded.
Flaws in the process combined with unprecedented numbers of applications have created a perfect storm at the NEB and the Trans Mountain Expansion Project process is the first to show the strains. “Some of the deficiencies in the process could have been cured by waiting until the whole project application was complete before beginning the hearing,” said Wristen. “As it is, new information is being filed even now, only a month before we’re supposed to be filing our experts’ reports assessing it.”
The NEB process was originally meant to provide social licence for projects, by ensuring that members of the public had the right to participate in the decision-making process. That only works if the process is effective, democratic and thorough, however; this process is falling farther and farther short of those objectives as time goes on.