Ministerial panel on Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion ‘fills in the blanks,’ hands in report

Paul Barnsley
APTN National News
A three-member panel given the job of filling in the blanks of the National Energy Board review of a proposed oil pipeline through the Rocky Mountains from Edmonton, Alta., to Burnaby, B.C. has completed the task.

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project Ministerial Panel – comprised of former Tsawwassen First Nation chief Kim Baird, former Yukon premier Tony Penikett and former high-level Alberta government official and current president of the University of Manitoba Dr. Annette Trimbee — filed their 60-page report Thursday with federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

In a statement released on behalf of the panel, they stated they were “reporting to the federal government on what Canadians said was missed in the National Energy Board (NEB) review of the proposed new pipeline.”

The government release says the panel held 44 public meetings in 11 Alberta and B.C. communities and added that 650 people spoke at public meetings and attended by more than 2,000. More than 20,000 email submissions and 35,000 responses to an online questionnaire were also received, the release states.

The federal cabinet will now consider the report and make its final decision on the fate of the project by December 19.

The panel was struck after a public outcry over the way the NEB reviewed and approved the $6.8 billion project back in May.

“Canadians have been locked in debate about the processes, policies and staffing of the current NEB. And many, particularly in British Columbia, have asserted that, in its research and deliberations, the NEB left gaps — in knowledge and public confidence — that were so significant that the board’s recommendation could not, of itself, support a government approval of theTrans Mountain Pipeline project,” the report states.

The panel’s report ends with six questions.

“We were not asked to critique the National Energy Board’s methods or performance, but rather to identify gaps in the whole process of considering a new Trans Mountain pipeline. For that reason, we quickly came to think of ourselves as ‘the omissions panel’ — we were searching and listening for important details that might have been overlooked.

“Our mandate was also clear in asking that we report our findings, rather than make recommendations. While it was an honour to engage with communities and First Nations along the proposed pipeline route and hear about the important issues they felt had been missed in the NEB process, our panel hadn’t the time, technical expertise or the resources to fill those gaps. Our role was not to propose solutions, but to identify important questions that, in the circumstances, remain unanswered,” the panel wrote in explaining why it would end its report with questions that need to be answered by the government.”

The questions are:

1. Can construction of a new Trans Mountain Pipeline be reconciled with Canada’s climate change commitments?

2. In the absence of a comprehensive national energy strategy, how can policy-makers effectively assess projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline?

3. How might Cabinet square approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline with its commitment to reconciliation with First Nations and to the UNDRIP principles of “free, prior, and informed consent?”
4. Given the changed economic and political circumstances, the perceived flaws in the NEB process, and also the criticism of the Ministerial Panel’s own review, how can Canada be confident in its assessment of the project’s economic rewards and risks?

5. If approved, what route would best serve aquifer, municipal, aquatic and marine safety?

6. How does federal policy define the terms “social licence” and “Canadian public interest” and their inter-relationships?

See full report here: Trans Mountain Pipeline


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