The next round of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) hearings for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are scheduled to begin January 19 in Vancouver, B.C.
Climate advocates and critics of the National Energy Board are disappointed the review process will continue on under rules established by the previous federal government, especially since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to make the process more credible and evidence-based.
The Liberal party platform promised to immediately review the process, restoring “robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments” as well as restoring “lost protections” eliminated during the former government’s sweeping changes to environmental law.
At a campaign stop in August 2015, Trudeau told Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at the Dogwood Initiative, that the NEB overhaul would apply to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Yes. Yes,” Trudeau said. “It applies to existing projects, existing pipelines as well.”
“Okay,” Nagata said. “So if they approve Kinder Morgan in January, you’re saying…”
“No, they’re not going to approve it in January. Because we’re going to change the government,” Trudeau responded. “And that process needs to be redone.”
However in November, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced ongoing pipeline reviews will continue on while the federal government considers new rules.
“There will be a transition as we amend the ways in which the National Energy Board goes about the process of evaluating these projects,” Minister Carr said in November, “and we will announce those changes as soon as we can, but the process continues.”
Nagata said Trudeau’s promise is not being upheld.
“Clearly something has happened between the dying days of the election and today to give the government pause with regard to its promise to revamp the Kinder Morgan process,” he said.
“What’s difficult to stomach is everyone, including the Liberals, agrees there is a problem with the process.”
Nagata said this week’s decision by the B.C. Supreme Court that the province failed to uphold its duty to consult First Nations regarding the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline only adds to the feeling of frustration.
“The circumstances are exactly the same for Trans Mountain,” he said. “In this context we have these hearings going on that everyone agrees is a sham, but the First Nations, municipalities, and intervenors are expected to continue on, basically doffing their cap to the panel as they present their final evidence.”
“It’s humiliating for the province, for First Nations, intervenors and the taxpayers who supported the scientific work done in this review,” he said.
Clayton Thomas Muller, climate campaigner with 350.org, said the Trans Mountain hearings should not go ahead.
“By letting these reviews proceed the Prime Minister is breaking the promise he made on the campaign trail to stop reviewing pipelines using Stephen Harper’s rules,” he said.
“This government can’t meet its commitments on climate or Indigenous rights and push forward with pipeline reviews that ignore climate change, community voices and the duty to consult with Indigenous peoples,” Thomas Muller, Stop it at the Source Campaigner with 350.org, said.
Thomas Muller spent the morning in the office of Minister Jim Carr as part of a People’s Injunction action organized by 350.org. Campaigners said they were performing a “people’s search and seizure” for new pipeline review rules.
“If they don’t have a new process here today, they should cancel these projects before the Kinder Morgan hearings start on Monday,” Thomas Muller said.
“Without considering climate change or listening to community voices, especially First Nations, these reviews are still little more than a rubber stamp for unnecessary, dangerous fossil fuel projects.”
The climate advocacy organization is planning actions across Canada as part of the People’s Injunction to ask for a cancellation or suspension of pipeline reviews until new rules are put in place.
Peter McCartney, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee said the organization is “very disappointed” the review will continue on under the current regime.
“There was a promise made to restore credibility to these hearings,” he said. “If these hearings aren't good enough for future projects, they're not good enough now.”
The Wilderness Committee publicly withdrew as an intervenor from the Trans Mountain review in August, criticising the process as unfair and biased with a predetermined outcome. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society as well as 33 other individuals also abandoned their position as intervenors in the process in August, following other high-profile withdrawals from for CEO of ICBC, Robyn Allan, and former CEO of BC Hydro, Marc Elisen.
“Canadians deserve an environmental review process they can trust, that takes into account climate impacts and properly consults with First Nations,” McCartney said.
“It looks like we made the right decision in pulling out of the hearings and taking our message straight to the Prime Minister.”