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After weeks of protests, canceled hearings, and accusations of impropriety, the National Energy Board’s review of the Energy East pipeline collapsed under the weight of scandal. As first reported in the National Observer, panel members of the Board had met behind closed doors with pipeline lobbyist and former Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, seriously damaging the NEB’s credibility as a neutral regulator (reported first here in the National Observer).

As a result, all three of the members of the NEB review panel have stepped aside and both the Chair and Vice Chair of the National Energy Board have recused themselves from being involved in the future of the Energy East review. This means that new board members will have to be appointed by cabinet—the NEB is so heavily stacked with Alberta oil men that there are not enough remaining members who are bilingual to conduct a review in Quebec.

Justin Trudeau and his cabinet can no longer ignore the disaster that is the ongoing review of pipeline projects. He has permitted these pipeline reviews to proceed despite his promises during last fall's election to start them over from scratch. It’s time he kept this campaign promise.

Although the latest NEB debacle started with Energy East, their previous review of the Kinder Morgan pipeline was no better. The panel for that project led a farcically flawed process, ruling in favour of the pipeline company over 80 per cent of the time. The NEB barred the public from the hearings, ignored volumes of evidence submitted by experts and by local governments, and did not allow any cross-examination of the biased evidence submitted by Kinder Morgan.

Despite these glaring deficiencies, the Trudeau cabinet still plans to make a decision on Kinder Morgan’s permits in December — based primarily on the original flawed Kinder Morgan report. This is clearly a violation of the basic principles of fairness and justice that this government espouses. I am not sure how a government elected on the promise of cleaning up this mess of a pipeline review process can look voters in the eye and tell us they have protected our interests.

It’s clearly time to hit restart on the National Energy Board, as well as a restart of the reviews of both the Kinder Morgan and the Energy East pipelines. There is no other way for the Trudeau government to restore public confidence in the neutrality of this flawed government body.

Sven Biggs works as a campaigner for the environmental group Stand (formally ForestEthics) where he focuses on energy and climate issues. Over the last eight years he has travelled from Victoria to Fort McMurray to hear from communities living along the route of Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline.

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