The National Energy Board, Canada's federal energy regulator, has announced a new three-member panel to review the largest pipeline project ever proposed in Canada.

Ontario's Don Ferguson and Carole Malo, along with Marc Paquin from Quebec, were officially tasked on Monday with assessing TransCanada Corp.’s proposed 4,500−kilometre Energy East pipeline — a controversial project that, if built, would ship more than a million barrels of oil per day from Alberta to New Brunswick.

Ferguson, Malo, and Paquin, all bilingual, were initially appointed to the NEB in December by Natural Resources Canada. Their assignment to the Energy East pipeline however, while expected, is new.

Hearings will be "fair, transparent"

"While the details have yet to be determined, Canadians can be assured that the Energy East hearing will be fair, transparent, timely and accessible," said a Monday news release on the NEB website. "In the coming weeks, they (the panelists) will determine how to move forward with this review process."

Montreal hearings for the hotly-debated pipeline were suspended late last August 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 Corp. The politician provided them with advice on how to engage with Quebecers on the project privately, against NEB rules requiring all meetings and discussions about a proposal under review to be public and transparent.

That panel, including then-NEB chair and CEO Peter Watson, recused itself shortly afterwards, prompting widespread protests in Montreal and demands that the Energy East review process be started from scratch. The NEB has expressed confidence that the new panelists — Ferguson, Malo, and Paquin — are up to the task and "bring considerable knowledge and experience" to the table.

Energy East, map, TransCanada Corp, National Energy Board, NEB, pipeline, oilsands
A map of the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline. Image from National Energy Board website.

About the panelists

Ferguson, a former senior civil servant in the New Brunswick government, works as chief strategy officer at the New Brunswick Institute of Research, Data and Training.

Malo is a Toronto-based consultant specializing in infrastructure and energy projects. She is a former vice-president at SNC-Lavalin Capital, and has served on boards and committees of organizations Women Gaining Ground, a program by United Way of Toronto & York Region to impact the lives of women facing poverty.

Paquin has had a career in environmental and sustainable development law, and is president of theUNISFÉRA International Centre, a think tank focused on issues of governance, climate change and international development. Paquin also served part-time as a member of Quebec's environmental review agency between 2014 and 2016.

If constructed, the Energy East pipeline would cross nearly 3,000 waterways from Alberta to New Brunswick. Its opponents say the project is too risky and would push Canada's climate change goals out of reach, while many business and union leaders believe the project is important and would contribute to jobs and economic growth.

Advocacy group Environmental Defence's climate and energy program manager, Patrick DeRoshie, responded to the new panel, commenting that the federal government should keep the review suspended until it can adequately review the potential impact of the pipeline project on the climate.

"The federal government must fulfill its promise to restore public confidence in the energy project review process. While the NEB is being overhauled and the federal government assesses how to align energy projects with climate policy, it makes no sense to proceed with the Energy East review...The NEB should pull the plug on the Energy East review and restart it only when an overhauled review process with a credible climate test is in place."

This story was updated on January 10, 1:00 p.m. PT, to include comments by Environental Defence.

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The token ban on "oil" tankers in the Salish Sea, along with the promised reinstatement of protection for water bodies will be delayed until the rubber stamping of all the major projects has finished. Corporate elites have invested good money in the Liberals to ensure inconvenient environmental and Indigenous requirements are overlooked on the smooth, speedy approval process. Even then, they are not planning to reinstate the Navigable Waters Act and update it, they are keeping Harper's butchered replacement and making some tweaks. It is lose/lose for all but polluters. If they bother with these at all, it won't be until all projects have been dealt with and they will leave loopholes big enough to sail tankers through.

There needs to be a lot more information presented to Canadians, about the true cost of this mega infrastructure. Trying to follow the pipeline debate for the last 5 years, I was shocked to learn something I hadn't thought of, or read anything about, recently.

We all know, or should know, that bitumen doesn't flow. To get that crud moving it must be diluted with light hydrocarbons, some of which are deadly toxins when they revert to gaseous form during a spill. But beyond that, where are we going to get them from for the next 40 years (the approx life of this climate killing pipe dream I do believe)? If much of the sweet light crude is gone, and I suspect it is or we woudln't be fracking....are we going to have to frack much of our back country to get these diluents???

If so, we won't be standing on much solid ground....or drinking much potable water,by the time they are finished stripping our eco-sphere, to create wealth for the few and dirty jobs for the many.

I'd like the stats on all that long term 'growth' activity, before I give my support to this kind of prosperity.

Notice of motion filed to declare Energy East process VOID.
It should be void, and started from scratch. Construed bias and secret meetings have tainted the entire process to date. Appointing new Board Members to the hearing panel offers no semblance of propriety.
A three ring circus like never before. Let the games begin.

It's very simple; if Trudeau was really serious when he made his plight to fight climate change, he would not have approved Kinder Morgan and Line 3. We all know (unless you are a climate denier) that climate change is the direct result of human burning fossil fuels. Approving new pipelines will only prolong the production of fossil fuels. It's time to phase out "now" the production of fossil fuels. We don't need EnergyEast or any other pipelines.