Weeks after recusing themselves from the federal review of TransCanada's Energy East project, two National Energy Board members were back on the job, reviewing another TransCanada-linked project.

Only two weeks after conflict-of-interest allegations forced three National Energy Board members to remove themselves from the Energy East review, new documents show that two of those members were assigned to review a project application from Nova Gas, a company also owned by TransCanada.

The panel members, Lyne Mercier and Jacques Gauthier, stopped their work on the review on Sept. 9, 2016 to avoid the appearance of bias after National Observer reported they had met privately with a TransCanada contractor in 2015 to discuss the Energy East project. On Sept. 22, 2016 the NEB assigned them to review an application from Nova Gas Transmission Ltd., a subsidiary wholly owned by the company they're accused of being too cozy with by critics and watchdogs.

The documents, obtained by National Observer under access to information legislation, also show that NEB chair Peter Watson — who also recused himself from the Energy East panel to avoid being perceived as biased in favour of TransCanada — was the executive who signed off on the September decision.

Keith Stewart, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, said the appointment appears fishy.

“While it may not be against the rules, it certainly raises some eyebrows,” he told National Observer. “It is a little surprising that they would have to recuse themselves for inappropriate contact with the company, and then get immediately re-assigned to a project from the same company."

Watson, Mercier, Gauthier, and their colleague, Roland George, pulled themselves out of the review for the Energy East pipeline project after National Observer reported that three of them had met privately in January 2015 with former Quebec premier Jean Charest. Charest was working for TransCanada to promote Energy East at the time, but Gauthier and Mercier later said they did not know that when they met him.

Charest gave them political advice on how the NEB could effectively engage Quebecers on the Energy East project.

Gauthier invited Charest to the private meeting, which took place while the board was doing a formal public review of the Energy East, the largest pipeline proposal in Canadian history. National Energy Board rules require such meetings to be public and on the record.

In letters to the NEB in September 2016, the board members said they were recusing themselves because the meeting with a TransCanada representative could create the appearance of impartiality. Two weeks later, the NEB chair, Watson assigned both board members to sit on a new committee to review an August 2016 request for approval from Nova Gas to abandon 266 kilometres of pipeline in northern Alberta.

The Energy East pipeline is a proposal to ship more than a million barrels of crude oil per day from the Prairies to refineries and terminals in Quebec and New Brunswick. Canada's oilsands producers say the project is needed to support jobs and growth in their sector, while environmentalists say it must be blocked to slow down the country's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and protect vulnerable land and water ecosystems.

The NEB representatives who recused themselves only from the Energy East project review, not from all business related to TransCanada or its subsidiary companies, NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley told National Observer in an email. Kiley wouldn't say whether the NEB sought a legal opinion before Watson appointed the board members to the Nova Gas application.

“Legal advice is protected by solicitor-client privilege and that privilege extends to the question of whether or not legal advice was sought,” Kiley wrote.

— additional reporting by Mike De Souza

Never expect impartiality from the NEB. It's impossible.
NO attempt to "modernize" this critically captured, corporately deceptive and deviant Board will succeed.
A totally reconstructed regulatory body, a new federal Energy Act, and an entirely new staff basing decisions on fact, science, and reality, are necessary to have any modicum of success in protecting the environment, landowners and their rights, and the "public interest", independent of the greedy quest for shareholder returns.
The NEB's "lifecycle" continues.

The NEB continues to flaunt their own mandate and behave like puppets for the industry. Seeing the same corruption repeated is sadly, no surprise for a captive regulator. What is incredible to me, is that despite all the revelations and scandals, they believe that the public won't find out about this and have conniptions, or they think the public won't have a problem with it because it's a different project. Either way the reasoning is deeply flawed and shows a profound lack of comprehension about the public's growing anger. The pathetic changes made by the Liberals could blow back on them, as the scandals about spending, bribe holidays, poor 1%er problems, and condescending phoney "visits" with the huddled masses shoehorned in between already scheduled meetings with big donor special interests. Especially the industry groups he's meeting with in Alberta. It seems they are so corrupt that even these public meetings are being manipulated and people are asked to "sign up" giving personal information for the liberals to use in future. Despite all this, what I read in the CBC's reporting of meetings held in Ontario showed that he isn't answering questions anyway, just rehashing rhetoric to feed back to people. We could all do that without having to leave home, so I fail to see the point in giving him the ego boost by attending.

The NEB continues to flaunt their own mandate and behave like puppets for the industry. Seeing the same corruption repeated is sadly, no surprise for a captive regulator. What is incredible to me, is that despite all the revelations and scandals, they believe that the public won't find out about this and have conniptions, or they think the public won't have a problem with it because it's a different project. Either way the reasoning is deeply flawed and shows a profound lack of comprehension about the public's growing anger. The pathetic changes made by the Liberals could blow back on them, as the scandals about spending, bribe holidays, poor 1%er problems, and condescending phoney "visits" with the huddled masses shoehorned in between already scheduled meetings with big donor special interests. Especially the industry groups he's meeting with in Alberta. It seems they are so corrupt that even these public meetings are being manipulated and people are asked to "sign up" giving personal information for the liberals to use in future. Despite all this, what I read in the CBC's reporting of meetings held in Ontario showed that he isn't answering questions anyway, just rehashing rhetoric to feed back to people. We could all do that without having to leave home, so I fail to see the point in giving him the ego boost by attending.

This is bizarre and unacceptable. When will this rats nest of biased people be replaced by a proper board?

Justin Trudeau FAILED to live up to his promise to restore integrity to review processes because he has kept Harper's NEB. He and his party will never receive my vote again.

Although one of the comments was posted twice, all of the comments were very good and drew attention to important matters with respect to the Trudeau government and the NEB.

To sum up, the Trudeau government lied during the election campaign by implying that it was going to act immediately to deal with the NEB situation and also to strengthen environmental laws. He did neither. First it allowed certain projects to continue being assessed under the old Harper rules which many of us can remember were a stripped-down version of the laws before Harper’s 2011 Omnibus budget Bill.

The irresponsibility of the NEB was made public before the 2015 election. Specifically, it was made public by Robyn Allan, an economist who had devoted her time pro bono as an intervenor in the Kinder Morgan hearings and resigned in disgust when it became clear the NEB was simply a tool of the industry. Anyone with any interest in honesty in government should read Ms. Allan’s letter of resignation as an intervenor in the hearings.

See: https://dogwoodinitiative.org/robyn-allan-withdraws/

This letter of resignation was made available to the public including the policymakers of party platforms five months before the general election. Given the sales job of the Trudeau gang, it was perfectly reasonable for voters to expect them to act immediately upon taking office. Instead, the Trudeau government came up with some rationalization that it wouldn’t be fair to change the rules in the middle of the process. No?!. Was it fair that Harper basically turned rulemaking over to the heart hydrocarbon and pipeline industry and harassed anyone who question what they did. No, and what Trudeau did point seee Dean government was not fair rather it was a move to fold like a cheap shirt. “Fairness” was completely irrelevant in the Trudeau government’s decision.

As mentioned in other comments, the only way to get the NEB on you reasonable footing is to replace all the employees, move the organization out of Calgary and completely review the mandate to make clear that the NEB is to be a regulator and not a cheering section for the oil and gas industries.

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