Senate committee recommends NEB reforms

New Senate committee recommendations are aimed at getting new pipelines approved | BIV files

A Senate committee is recommending reforming the National Energy Board (NEB) to require more focus on environment and First Nations concerns as a way to break a “bottleneck” that has prevented new oil pipelines from being built in Canada.

It is also recommending that, once the NEB has made a decision that it be the final word and not be subject to Governor in Council final approval.

The Senate Committee on Transport and Communications has concluded that the current NEB process is too politicized and too narrow.

When it reviews a project like an oil pipeline, the NEB only considers technical issues such as safety and economic viability, the committee says. The committee recommends the NEB’s mandate be expanded to give more weight to environmental and First Nations concerns.

But that doesn’t mean the committee wants to make the regulatory process necessarily tougher. In fact, the recommendations are aimed at getting new pipelines approved.

It says a stronger “more inclusive” process that would maximize economic benefits while minimizing environmental risk is critical to “achieving broader public consensus.”

“Expanding Canada’s pipeline network is an economic imperative,” the committee states in a news release. “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.”

The committee says the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the West Coast, and Energy East line to the East Coast would generate a total of $77.6 billion to Canada’s gross national product.

“Like the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway almost 150 years ago, pipeline construction is an exercise in nation building,” Senator Terry Mercer said. “An expanded pipeline network will ensure our ability to get our oil to tidewater and to get global markets that offer better prices.”

Check out BIV’s podcast for the week of December 7, 2016: