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Canada’s Environmental Reviews: National Energy Board

Overview

The National Energy Board (NEB) was created in 1959 under Prime Minister Diefenbaker, and was tasked with making recommendations about “the policies which will best serve the national interest in relation to the export of energy and sources of energy from Canada” and “aspects of energy policy coming within the jurisdiction of Parliament as it may be desirable to entrust to such a Board.”

Today, the NEB regulates:

  • The construction, operation, and abandonment of pipelines that cross international borders or provincial boundaries, as well as the associated pipeline tolls and tariffs;
  • The construction and operation of international power lines and designated inter-provincial power lines;
  • Imports of natural gas and exports of crude oil, natural gas liquids, natural gas, refined petroleum products and electricity; and
  • Oil and gas exploration not otherwise regulated by provinces.

In 2012, omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 amended the NEB Act and increased the mandate of the NEB to include environmental assessments for certain projects. The NEB Act was also amended to include time limits on proceedings, as well as limits on public participation.

In the past several years, the role of energy regulators has expanded dramatically. Regulators must now consider Indigenous consultation and accommodation (although the extent of that consultation is subject to litigation before the SCC), and public input and interest has also increased dramatically as issues under the NEB’s purview are increasingly part of the national dialogue (i.e. pipelines).

The NEB has struggled to fulfill this expanded mandate, which is much broader than originally envisioned in the 1950s. Further, allegations of conflict of interest and close ties to the industry it is meant to regulate have caused many to describe it as an ‘industry captured regulator.’

This broad mistrust of the NEB caused the Prime Minister to issue the Minister of Natural Resources a mandate letter that includes a commitment to “modernize the National Energy Board to ensure that its composition reflects regional views and has sufficient expertise in fields such as environmental science, community development, and Indigenous traditional knowledge.”

Recently, the NEB has come under intense public scrutiny – notably for their controversial review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion (TMEX), and the recent recusal of the panel and CEO Peter Watson from the Energy East pipeline review, following the revelations of secret meetings with former premier Jean Charest, who was working for Energy East proponent Trans Canada Pipelines at the time.

As many commenters have stated, the NEB is broken and is in urgent need of an overhaul. The NEB modernization is an opportunity to fix it.

This review will look at issues that are specific to the NEB and fall outside the separate review of Canada's federal environmental assessment processes. It is an opportunity to strengthen the regulatory process and ensure that Canada continues to have a modern, efficient and effective regulator. Specifically, the review will focus on:

  • Governance and structure
  • Mandate and future opportunities
  • Decision-making on major projects
  • Compliance, enforcement, and ongoing monitoring
  • Engagement with Indigenous peoples
  • Public participation

Timeline

  • June 20, 2016 – The draft Terms of Reference for the NEB Expert Panel were made available for public review and comment for 30 days
  • January 25, 2016 – NEB Modernization Engagement sessions begin (see below for full list of events and locations).
  • March 31, 2017 – Deadline for submitting comments via the Expert Panel's online portal
  • May 15, 2017 – NEB review panel expected to provide its report and recommendations to the Minister of Natural Resources

Ways to participate

The Expert Panel will be collecting input from Canadians in person and online.

You can submit written comments via the Panel’s online portal – the deadline for submissions is March 31, 2017.

The National Energy Board Modernization Expert Panel is inviting the public to participate in engagement sessions to be held across the country. In addition, the public is invited to provide comments on the Discussion Papers that cover key themes related to NEB Modernization.

The Expert Panel will visit the following cities:

  1. Saskatoon, SK - January 25–26, 2017
  2. Toronto, ON - February 1–2, 2017
  3. Vancouver, BC - February 8–9, 2017
  4. Winnipeg, MB - February 15–16, 2017
  5. National Capital Region (Ottawa, ON - Gatineau, QC) - February 22–23, 2017
  6. Fort St. John, BC - March 1–2, 2017
  7. Edmonton, AB - March 7–8, 2017
  8. Iqaluit, NU - March 14–15, 2017
  9. Saint John, NB - March, 21–22, 2017
  10. Montreal, QC - March 28–29, 2017

Click here to learn more and register for a public engagement session near you!

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is offering up to $25,000 in funding for non-governmental organizations and associations to conduct research on the themes of the NEB review. To learn more about these funding opportunities, click here.

NRCan is also offering up to $1000 in funding to support public travel to participate in engagement sessions with the NEB Modernization Expert Panel. To learn more about travel funding, click here.

For more information, visit the NEB Modernization website.  If you have questions, email NRCan.NEBModernization-ModernisationONE.RNCan@Canada.ca

Additional resources

An analysis of the controversy surrounding the NEB review of the Energy East pipeline proposal.

Marc Eliesen, a senior energy executive who once served as CEO of BC Hydro, explains why he quit his role as an intervenor in the federal review of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker expansion project.


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