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Changing the culture of Canada’s embattled pipeline regulator is part of a comprehensive review that will unfold in the coming months, federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said on Friday in a short interview with National Observer.

Carr made the comments in Ottawa, one day after the Liberal government appointed four new members to the National Energy Board, including an Indigenous lawyer from Alberta, Wilma Jacknife, and other regulatory experts with experience at high levels of government.

The appointments bring some fresh faces to a regulator that has often been criticized for being too cozy with industry and weak when it comes to enforcing safety rules. The regulator has said its staff acts professionally and continues to apply extensive technical expertise in the interest of Canadian pipeline safety and environmental protection.

Carr said the upcoming federal review of the NEB would fit into a series of major investigations, announced in June, to review the status of major Canadian environmental laws that were overhauled by the former Conservative government.

Apart from Jacknife, the Liberal government also appointed Damien Côté from Quebec, Ronald Durelle from New Brunswick and Alain Jolicoeur from Ontario as new temporary members to the NEB.

Carr also said that three additional appointments of NEB members would be on the way to give the regulator panelists to preside over hearings to review the Energy East pipeline, a 4,500 kilometre crude oil pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.

Hearings on this pipeline adjourned with all panelists resigning after admitting that they appeared to be biased in the wake of evidence uncovered last summer by National Observer​. The report revealed that the NEB's chief executive, Peter Watson, and two of the panelists had met privately with a TransCanada representative who gave them political advice about how to get the project approved.

Q and A with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr

Q: Do new appointments have a mandate to change the culture of the NEB?

A: "Well the mandate to change the culture of the NEB will come during the modernization process. When we look at long term reform of the National Energy Board, we will be announcing an expert panel very soon and as you know there are three other investigations across the country on reform to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the Navigable Waters Act, and the Fisheries Act and the government will take in all that advice and come up with an across-the-government approach to reform the environmental assessment system. These temporary members are delivering on a promise that Minister (Catherine) McKenna and I made on Jan. 27 that we would add more temporary members to the National Energy Board to give them more capacity to hear the Energy East pipeline deliberations."

Q: So you’re now going to have seven new (NEB) members... That wasn’t initially the plan when you first came into (power) right?

A: "Well because we had the recusals. So there are two tranches. This is the promise of Jan. 27. We’re appointing four new members. They’re first rate. I hope you have had a chance to look at their bios. And then, very soon, we will appoint three new members to replace those who were recused."

Q: So does this give the government the opportunity to put more of its stamp on the NEB?

A: "They’re very high quality individuals, reflecting the diversity of the country and in the case of Energy East, (they reflect) the region. So we think that that’s important and people will see that the new process that we are using to appoint members, not only to the National Energy Board, but throughout government is yielding very good results."

Q: How will the new acting chief executive (of the National Energy Board) be selected to oversee the Energy East process? Because Mr. Watson can’t do that anymore. Is that you’re choice or theirs?

A: "No that’s theirs. That's up to them."

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Voilà! A magic wand (comprehensive review) is going to change a culture of deviance, deception, and regulatory capture, that has so been deeply inculcated into the very fibre of the NEB for a very long time? Carr and his cronies are living in a fantasy world, spewing rhetoric that has no basis in reality.
Unless the NEB is REPLACED in its entirety, and the entire review process is revamped, all Board decisions are tainted, and as good as the rubber stamp they are made with.

Every response from cabinet is "We will shortly announce a review" of whatever crisis they are ignoring in favour of Business As Usual. Yet 1/4 of their mandate is up and we have nothing. They have promised reviews all over, then stacking the deck how they want it to go - like the TFW, or giving a day's notice of public meetings, or review panels that don't speak French or even take notes. Meanwhile, Site C, LNG and other unjustifiable, environmental nightmares are pushed along. When California and other critical areas stop exporting food, where will Canada get the 80% it imports from and what will it cost for produce or fruit? The best land we had is paved or built on and the rest is being destroyed as fast as permits can be issued. By all means, flood is with TFW and migrants we can't feed, house or employ at living wages. What is the cost to the environment, social and health programs, and how can we keep our climate commitments with such reckless stupidity?

more promises...
Tugboat ‘managed’ vessels, and smaller ‘freighters’, are the life-line of many coastal communities… Bella Bella locals, are faced with potential release of 190,000 litres diesel ,from the sunken ,Kirby Corp owned TUGBOAT, which causes concern about harvest of local sea life…

The Pacific Division(Kirby Corp) fleet consists of tug barges ranging in capacity from 26,000 barrels to 193,000 barrels, approaching the capacity of an Aframax vessel . … First ,let Canada’s marine experts (Transport Canada) study and determine where improvements can be made for ‘equipment’, crewing and ‘routing’ of local/coastal oil carrying marine transport vehicles, resulting in minimum risk ! Having this data in hand ,then apply the same science to determine where best to permit dilbit laden tankers to travel our busy , multibillion dollar revenue generating environmentally sensitive waters. Not south coast , busy, waters, Island-bound Douglas Channel, and with minimum travel near Rainforest areas.

The BC pipelines dilemma is a classic example of trying to decide without pipeline proponents FIRST discussing their plans with the potentially impacted communities …and then present their proposals ,for public review, by a truly independent group…for eventual community agreement and ultimate approval by Parliament…The dog and pony show we were presented during the past many years failed and caused one government to the back of the House…So far the new bunch in Ottawa have shown equal disdain of the community and the electorate…but we now more promises …will we ever see science based pipeline which gains community acceptance and Parliamentary approval ??

Carl Shalansky, P. Eng. (Retired)
(604) 986-4657