Less than 24 hours after Canada's federal pipeline regulator announced a brand new panel to review the controversial Energy East pipeline, an environmental group in northern Ontario is turning to the courts to shut it down.

A new motion filed with the embattled National Energy Board (NEB) on Tuesday by the environmental law firm Ecojustice seeks to stop the process in its tracks, arguing that the review is tainted by conflict-of-interest allegations brought to light last summer.

Hearings on the 4,500-kilometre Energy East pipeline, a project of Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., have been stalled since September 2016, after a National Observer investigation revealed that members of the NEB panel reviewing the project had met secretly with former Quebec premier Jean Charest. At the time, Charest was working for TransCanada to promote the project.

Ecojustice's motion was filed on behalf of Transition Initiative Kenora (TIK), an environmental advocacy network based in northern Ontario. In the motion, the two groups note that the NEB panel members who recused themselves following the scandal had met with Charest within the first month of the two years they worked on the review.

"Bias permeates the entire review process"

“Because there is the reasonable apprehension of bias that resulted in the recusal of the original panel, that bias permeates the entire review process,” TIK executive director Teika Newton told National Observer. “The only remedy for that is to void the process to date and start it over again."

In an email statement to National Observer, the NEB responded briefly to the filing by TIK and Ecojustice.

"It will be up to the new Energy East Hearing Panel to review this notice of motion and rule on it," said spokesperson Sarah Kiley.

On Monday, the NEB announced the appointment of three new board members to review the project, but Ecojustice and TIK are not convinced that changing the faces on the panel will wipe the slate clean on Energy East, the largest pipeline proposal in Canadian history. After all, argues Ecojustice lawyer Charles Hatt, the integrity of any decisions made by the original Board members during the two years after the Charest meeting could have been compromised.

Among other decisions, the Board reviewed TransCanada's application for the project and set out the scope of the environmental assessment to be done. They also examined hundreds of applications from individuals and groups seeking to participate in the review process.

“It's not possible for these new Board members to look at each decision and decide, 'Was this decision tainted by bias?'” Hatt said.

New rules for environmental assessments

Newton said that if the process is restarted, TIK hopes the NEB will wait until new environmental assessment rules are put in place later this year. Recommendations about those new rules are expected in May, when a review panel aimed at modernizing the NEB reports its findings to the minister of natural resources.

If the Board cancels the process as a result of the challenge, TransCanada could file a new application, and it would appoint a new review panel and schedule new hearings.

If approved, the Energy East pipeline would carry 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Quebec and New Brunswick, crossing roughly 3,000 rivers, streams and waterways. 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.

It would be a miscarriage of impartiality if the hearing is not restarted and reheard.
New Environmental Assessment rules need to be in place before this hearing restarts.

In addition, it was initially Natural Resources Minister Carr whom suggested the three newly appointed Board Members were suitable to hear the Energy East project. That, in itself, demonstrates the Minister chose these Board Members to hear TransCanada's application, rather than being chosen by that mandated to make that decision. - the NEB itself.
Another flagrant example of bias brought into this process.

In the order listed the following actions should be taken by a government so out of touch with the horrendous global consequences of their hypocritical environmental decisions since being elected:
1. Apologize to the COP organization for the promises they've been willing to make but unwilling to
2. Withdraw all their decisions to date re the:
LNG terminal at Lelu Island, Kinder Morgan triple pipelining, Line 3 to the south, TransCanada pipeline
to the East coast, continuation of subsidies encouraging further development of the oil sands, and ?
( representing every other misguided project encouraging fossil fuel development in Canada).
3. Fire the NEB and replace it with an unbiased regulator without a sweetheart relationship to the
regulated or to government.
4. Pass legislation changing our electoral system from First Past the Post (FPTP) to Proportional
Representation (PR).
5. Pass legislation allowing itself to recall itself.
6. Have the PM plead with the Governor General to accept such a recall.
7. Upon the GG's agreement call for an immediate Federal election.
8. Resign the entire government.
I'll bet you think this is too much of a heresy even to contemplate, and you're probably right. So I guess we'll just have to use direct democracy on the streets and break the provincial treasury feeding us in jail.

According to the June 2016 CAPP report "Crude Oil Forecast, Markets and Transportation" (Table 4.1), if all the major existing and proposed crude oil pipelines exiting the WCSB were built, the total capacity would reach 7,437,000 barrels per day (b/d). The total Canadian crude oil supply (that includes crude oil production and condensate imports) coming from Western Canada, which was estimated at 3,980,000 b/d in 2015, is supposed to reach 5,450,000 b/d in 2030. It would result in an over pipeline capacity of almost 2 million b/d in 2030. Energy East has a capacity of 1,100,000 b/d, and Northern Gateway 525,000 b/d. Take those two out and you still have an over capacity in the system. If KinderMorgan is built and Line 3 restored, the capacity will reach 4,982,000 b/d. Keystone XL might be back on line with a capacity of more than 830,000 b/d. If those three last pipelines are built, there will be no need for Energy East as refineries in Quebec and Ontario already get their crude oil from Western Canada and the U.S. Irving in N.B., which is the largest refinery in Canada, has switched back to foreign imports, and can be supplied by train, barges or oil tankers if it turns back to North America for their crude oil supply. In the eventuality that EnergyEast is built, Irving would be able to process just a small fraction (around 50,000 b/d according to Irving officials) of the oil carried by the pipeline; the rest would have to be shipped to the U.S., as no foreign countries except the U.S. are interested in buying Canadian heavy crude oil ( check NEB's quarterly reports on "Canadian Crude Oil Exports by Type and Destination").
There is no proof that EnergyEast would be profitable, unless the price of oil goes up radically in the near future. For now, TransCanada is just trying to justify a usage for their half empty natural gas pipeline which is losing business and markets to cheaper natural gas produced in Eastern U.S.