Canada’s National Energy Board is facing another legal challenge to its deeply flawed approval process for TransCanada Corporation’s Energy East pipeline, just a day after it confirmed that three new Board members appointed last month restart consideration of the project.
Transition Initiative Kenora (TIK) filed a notice of court motion Tuesday, “arguing that all decisions made by the prior panel members have been put into question after they stepped down because of questions about a potential conflict of interest last year,” the Montreal Gazette reports.
“What we’re arguing is that because there is this reasonable apprehension of bias associated with that panel, any of those discretionary decisions that they’ve made carry the taint of that potential bias,” said Executive Director Teika Newton. “There’s no way to remedy that, to fix that, by adding in a new panel and starting midway through the process,” after the previous panel spent two years making dozens of procedural and substantive decisions, including limits on the scope of the inquiry and recognition (or not) of potential intervenors.
“The only way to fix the problem is to start all over again from the beginning,” Newton said.
The government appointed the three new bilingual NEB members in December. Don Ferguson, formerly employed by the province of New Brunswick government, is chief strategy officer at the New Brunswick Institute of Research, Data and Training. Toronto consultant Carole Malo is a former vice-president at engineering giant SNC-Lavalin Capital. Marc Paquin is president of the UNISFÉRA International Centre, “a think tank focused on issues of governance, climate change, and international development,” according to the National Observer. He has also served on Quebec’s environmental review agency.
The regulator has been the target of sustained criticism from many Canadians, including (disclosure) the curators of The Energy Mix. In November, the federal government named a panel to review its operations and suggest reforms, but the Energy East review will proceed under its existing protocols. Nonetheless, “Canadians can be assured that the Energy East hearing will be fair, transparent, timely, and accessible,” the NEB stated.
An earlier round of public hearings on the controversial pipeline proposal ended in a shambles in August, the outlet recalls, “after a National Observer investigation uncovered secret meetings in 2015 between NEB panel members and former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was employed at the time by TransCanada Corporation.” The meetings violated “NEB rules requiring all meetings and discussions about a proposal under review to be public and transparent.”
The proposed pipeline would be capable of moving 1.1 million barrels of diluted bitumen per day, more than one-quarter of the country’s entire petroleum production.