The federal government is considering whether to extend plans to toughen pipeline reviews to include Enbridge’s multi-billion dollar Line 3 replacement project, said a federal spokeswoman on Friday in a statement.
The comments signal that a third major pipeline project under review could also face additional scrutiny that was promised earlier this week for separate projects proposed by TransCanada Corp and Kinder Morgan. The government announced this week it would toughen pipeline safety rules for those two ongoing reviews, while at the same time ensuring that neither proponent would be required to resubmit its application.
Canada’s pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, is scheduled to issue its final recommendations on the Enbridge project before May 4, 2016.
“As Enbridge’s Line 3 Oil Pipeline replacement is in its final stages, the government will be reviewing the Line 3 process to determine if the time remaining is sufficient to allow for the principles to be taken into account, including to more fully hear the views of Indigenous Peoples and Canadians, and to assess the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project,” said Angela Kokkinos, a spokeswoman at Natural Resources Canada.
The Line 3 replacement proposal, if approved, would allow Enbridge to modernize, widen and increase the capacity of the existing pipeline to 760,000 barrels per day between Hardisty, Alberta and Superior, Wisconsin. This is nearly double its current capacity due to existing pressure restrictions imposed for safety reasons.
Enbridge has said that the project, estimated to cost about $7.5 billion, is the largest project in its history.
Gaile Whelan Enns, director of Manitoba Wildlands, a research and conservation group, said that it would make sense for the government to increase scrutiny on Line 3, as it has for TransCanada Corp’s Energy East project and Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline, since all of the reviews are ongoing and affect some of the same communities.
“It’s best for our new federal government and for all of the affected communities if they apply the principles to all the projects that are in the NEB process now,” she said. “That would mean that Line 3 still has the time to have the principles applied.”
The government said it introduced its tougher principles to restore public trust in reviews - trust that they say was damaged by changes introduced by the previous Conservative government. The new government said it would use public input to inform decisions and conduct “deeper consultations with Indigenous communities.”
The principles also call for the government to factor in its climate change commitments in pipeline reviews, while ensuring that decisions should be based on science, facts and evidence.