First Nations and some environmental groups have assailed new rules, announced last month by Canada’s Liberal government, to put current and future applications for permits to construct petroleum pipelines to a so-called “climate test.” The rules come too late for key projects now seeking regulatory approval, critics say, and duck key questions.
While environmentalists have generally praised the direction of the changes—which include commitments to more consultation with local communities and First Nations, and consideration of the greenhouse gas emissions a project will create—national environmental legal defence NGO Ecojustice, and the Alberta-based environmental think-tank Pembina Institute, both point to serious flaws.
For its part, Ecojustice charges that the rule changes come too late to influence the National Energy Board’s regulatory decision on an application by Texas-based Kinder Morgan to expand its existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver. During hearings on the proposal last year, the Board repeatedly denied standing to members of the public and environmental groups. The Province of British Columbia has expressed its opposition to that project.
The same group faulted the government for allowing TransCanada’s Energy East application to proceed with a nine-month extension, rather than ordering it back to the drawing board.
Writing for Pembina meanwhile, Matt Horne proposes four key questions that need to be posed to every new energy project applicant: “Are there opportunities to cut carbon pollution? Are policies in place to ensure carbon pollution is minimized? Does the project fit within a plan to meet climate commitments? (Canada has pledged to cut carbon pollution [to] at most 524 million tonnes by 2030.)” And lastly, but crucially, “Is the project viable as world moves away from fossil fuels?