“We need to better understand what Canadians are thinking” National Energy Board

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

The National Energy Board has launched a cross-Canada initiative to hear what Canadians are thinking when it comes to pipeline safety and environmental protection.

Peter Watson, Chairman of the National Energy Board (NEB), announced this initiative in a speech at a Saint John Chamber of Commerce luncheon this week.

Beginning in early 2015, Watson along with NEB Board Members and staff will visit every province and the North to hear from Canadians on how the Board can improve its pipeline safety program.

The Board intends to meet directly with interested groups, including municipal and provincial leaders and staff, Aboriginal organizations, environmental groups, first responders and academics, as well as professional and industry organizations to discuss pipeline safety and environmental protection.

“In order for us to achieve our mandate, we need to better understand what Canadians are thinking when it comes to pipeline safety and environmental protection,” said Watson, who was appointed to his present position in August this year. He previously served as Alberta’s deputy minister of energy.

In addition to meeting with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, the Board’s engagement initiative will also include an online discussion forum, open to anyone who wishes to share their views on pipeline safety and environmental protection.

The discussion forum can be accessed from the NEB’s website at www.neb-one.gc.ca/ListentoCanadians. Anyone wishing to provide comments or feedback on this initiative can email: pipelinesafety@neb-one.gc.ca.

The initiative comes at a critical moment with respect to public sentiment about the objectivity and the transparency of the Energy Board’s decision making processes.

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen, who once sat on the board of Suncor Energy and who gained a detailed knowledge of NEB hearing procedures based on 40 years in Canada’s energy sector, was quoted in a Vancouver Observer article as follows: “In my view the NEB hearing process is a rigged game.”

“In the past, there was a more objective evaluation of projects that would come forward…but it’s reached a stage where the NEB is not interested in the public interest, and more interested in facilitating the infrastructure for the oil and gas industry.”

The NEB consultative initiative comes also at a time when opposition to the $11-billion Energy East pipeline proposal by TransCanada Pipelines is growing. In addition to the conversion of 3,000 kilometres of natural gas pipeline on the company’s mainline route, roughly 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline would be built to carry crude oil from Alberta to Saint John.

While in Saint John NEB Chairman Watson commented that the board’s main job is to ensure proper construction of the pipeline.

Quoted in a CBC interview he said “One of the things that we take very seriously is, can that [pipeline] be constructed and operated properly and can the safety and security of the people in the communities that that project interfaces with … be addressed?”

“Energy transportation is a key driver of our economy and the work we do on behalf of Canadians is to obtain pipeline companies’ compliance, deter future non-compliance, and prevent harm by using the most appropriate tool or tools available,” said Watson in his Luncheon address.

“In order for us to do the best job possible, we want to know what Canadians are thinking when it comes to pipeline safety and environmental protection. In the coming months, I will be travelling across Canada to meet with Canadians and local organizations and listen to what they have to say. And I invite you, right now, to get the conversation started,” he added.

Once the Board’s cross-country visits conclude in late spring 2015, the Board will host a pipeline safety technical conference of subject matter experts. A report on the engagement initiative and technical conference will be publicly released by early 2016.

The challenge is simple, noted Watson. “Let us know what you’re thinking. Your insights will help us to better understand how we can adjust our pipeline safety program, public engagement activities and communications.”

Details on how to make your views known to the NEB are available here:

For more information on the NEB and its mandate, please visit www.neb-one.gc.ca.

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