Trudeau government to consult directly with First Nations on Trans Mountain, Energy East pipelines

APTN National News
OTTAWA—The Trudeau Liberal government says it will directly consult with First Nation communities impacted by the proposed Trans Mountain and Energy East pipeline projects in addition to the existing regulatory processes handled by arms-length federal agencies.

The federal government has previously outsourced the Crown’s constitutional duty to consult to regulatory bodies like the National Energy Board (NEB).

The NEB is currently charged with reviewing both Kinder Morgan’s $5.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline twinning project and TransCanada’s $15 billion Energy East cross-Canada pipeline project.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said Wednesday that the federal government would now launch and fund its own consultation process with First Nations communities—likely through a ministerial representative—at the conclusion of the NEB’s review of both pipeline projects.

“We understand why Indigenous people will want to have a direct conversation with the government of Canada and we will facilitate those,” said Carr, during an Ottawa press conference.

The federal cabinet has the final say on whether to approve large natural resource projects like pipelines.

Carr, along with Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, announced the shift in consultation as part the unveiling of an interim package of changes that will impact the approval process for the Kinder Morgan and TransCanada pipeline projects.

McKenna said the federal government will also now asses the upstream greenhouse gas emissions—including those associated with extraction and transportation—that are linked to both pipeline projects.

The interim changes will also impact every proposed project, including LNG proposals, currently before a federal regulatory body.

McKenna said final decisions on these proposed pipeline projects will be based on science, traditional Indigenous knowledge and “other relevant evidence.”

Carr said the federal government is extending its deadline for cabinet to decide on the Trans Mountain pipeline project from August to December of this year. The NEB is expected to finish its review of Kinder Morgan’s project in May.

Carr said a ministerial representative will engage with First Nation communities for consultation on the project following the conclusion of the NEB process.

The Trans Mountain twinning project would carry about 890,000 barrels per day of Alberta-mined bitumen from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

The same will apply to the Energy East process, which has yet to officially begin before the NEB, said Carr.

The minister said the NEB will now get a total of 21 months to review TransCanada’s proposed pipeline project which will carry Alberta-mined bitumen across the territories of about 155 First Nations to a New Brunswick refinery in Saint John for eventual export overseas.

Carr said the government will also appoint three extra NEB commissioners to handle the enhanced consultation process. The federal government will give itself six months to review the NEB’s conclusions and consult directly with First Nations, said Carr.

This would push a final decision on Energy East to the middle of 2018.

Carr said the changes announced Wednesday were just an interim step before the Liberal government launched a complete overhaul of the regulatory process for pipelines and large natural resource projects. He said part of the overhaul process will include Indigenous leaders to gather their thoughts on what they want to see in an improved consultation process.

“We are going to Indigenous communities to ask them about how they feel about the consultation process so far, the ways in which that process could be deepened and improved and we will take our cue and advice from those leaders and communities,” said Carr. “We will keep that advice as we move down the road.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told APTN National News that he believed First Nations had a right to reject projects impacting their rights.

The Mohawk communities of Kanesatake and Kahnawake have indicated they intend to pull out of the NEB’s Energy East process.

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—with files from the Canadian Press

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