NEB reconsideration report recommends approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
The National Energy Board released the results of its reconsideration report on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project on Friday and is recommending approval with new conditions.
Approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was struck down by the Federal Court of Appeal in August of 2018.
The court said that the NEB’s review was flawed and that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion.
It also stated that the federal government failed in its duty to engage in meaningful consultations with First Nations before approving the project and that there was no 'meaningful two-way dialogue.'
Last fall, Ottawa gave the NEB six months to redo its environmental review and the regulator restarted consultations with Indigenous groups from Canada and the United States.
The NEB was ordered to submit a report with full Indigenous evidence no later than February 22.
The report was delivered just after 10:00 a.m. MST and said the project is in the 'Canadian public interest and should be approved.'
The NEB will impose 156 conditions on the project, if approved by the federal government, and has made 16 new recommendations that relate to marine shipping.
The new recommendations include cumulative effects management for the Salish Sea, measures to offset underwater noise and marine oil spill response.
The regulator says the environmental damage from an oil spill off the west coast would be significant but that the risk is small and worth taking.
The report concluded that marine shipping is likely to have an adverse effect on the Southern resident killer whale and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The NEB says those factors weighed heavily in its decision but that they can be ‘justified in the circumstances in light of the considerable benefits of the project and measures to minimize the effects.’
Environmental groups were quick to react to the decision.
"Today's recommendation is the direct result of the Prime Minister's Office telling the NEB and federal bureaucrats to 'get to yes' on this project," Tzeporah Berman, director of the Vancouver environmental group, Stand.earth, said in a statement. "Scientific evidence filed with the NEB clearly shows that there is not enough data to ensure the safety of the marine environment ... and that the NEB failed to address the climate impacts of this project. The Trans Mountain Pipeline is not in the public interest and will never be built.”
A rally in support of the pipeline expansion project was held outside the NEB’s Calgary office on Friday morning.
Rally 4 Resources says taxpayers are footing the bill for the pipeline instead of the private sector and that the government has to be held accountable for committing billions of public dollars to the project.
They want shovels in the ground as soon as possible and for the project to be put back ‘into the hands of the private sector.’
“We are sick to death of what these governments have done. We’re sick to death of them not having the intelligence to move forward when projects are given approval and get them built,” said George Clark.
“That’s good news, maybe people are starting to listen,” said Maurice Carney.
“At the end of the day it will be to the benefit of Canada,” said Luis Rufo.
Cody Battershill, the founder of Canadaaction.ca, says the project is one of the most consulted in history.
“We have to protect those killer whales but they don’t know the difference between an oil tanker and a cargo ship and a cruise ship and it’s really silly that we have a standard for the energy sector that is not applied anywhere else and we’ve seen that on Energy East, we’ve seen that on Bill C-69 and other policy decisions that are absolutely devastating our national economy,” he said.
He says he agrees that the approval of the pipeline project is in the country’s national interest and that Canada needs to get going on construction.
“Even when you get regulatory approval in Canada you still can’t get to work and you still can’t start construction. Why are we waiting another 90 days to play politics with the livelihoods of men and women and families across the country? This pipeline project is in the national interest, it’s going to protect the environment, let’s get back to work, let’s get shovels in the ground immediately, let’s not wait 90 days.”
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley responded to the recommendations and said they are sound and achievable.
“It’s a step, it’s not a victory but it is an important step because it’s one of the barriers that we were most concerned about after the federal court of appeal decision,” she said. “We have to not let it be politicized, we have to make sure we get it right so that when the project starts again, which I hope will happen, that it stays and that those shovels stay in the ground, that’s what all Canadians need to see happen.”
Cabinet will now have 90-days to decide whether the project should proceed but officials in Amarjeet Sohi's office have said a final decision won't be made until consultations are complete.