Image Credit: The New England Aquarium
St. John, N.B.: Lisa Mitchell, ECELAW’s staff lawyer, was the first presenter on the first day of the Energy East National Energy Board (NEB) panel sessions. ECELAW is representing Nature Canada and Nature NB in the NEB process.
Energy East is a proposed 4,600-kilometre pipeline by Calgary-based energy corporation TransCanada. It would stretch from Alberta to an export terminal in New Brunswick and could carry up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day.
Lisa put forward Nature Canada’s seven key areas of concern, all of which focus on potential impacts to the Bay of Fundy ecosystem, including increased tanker traffic, oil spills, and cumulative environmental effects. The Energy East project intends to increase crude oil storage by 13.2 million barrels and large oil tanker traffic in the Bay of Fundy by 281 vessels annually.
As Lisa stated in her presentation to the Panel,
“There is much that we do not know or understand about the Bay of Fundy ecosystem, but what we do know causes us to take a very considered and cautious approach to increasing the potential risk of oil releases into this environment.”
Intervenor presentations were limited to twenty minutes, which included ten minutes for the Applicant to answer questions. Nature Canada posed three questions to the Applicant, primarily seeking information on the Applicant’s capacity to respond to oil spills in the Bay of Fundy.
The Applicant was prepared with half dozen experts available to address questions and they were ever polite in their answers. Given time was limited, the Applicant took a rather meandering approach to their answers, frequently failed to answer the question, providing instead a narrative on the robust nature of their plan.
As far as ‘informal’ goes, the NEB interpretation is far from casual Friday, as the Panel members, support staff, the Applicant’s three lawyers and half dozen experts were all dressed in their Sunday finest ensuring that anyone entering the room felt fully uncomfortable if they had not made a visit to their local tailor for the proper suit and tie. Nature Canada and Nature NB were, in fact, the only intervenors represented by a lawyer.
The NEB staff and Panel members, however, were engaged and helpful. The Intervenors were articulate and raised a multitude of insightful questions to the Applicant and points of concern to the Panel. The “informal” process is new for the NEB and I expect we will see an evolution of their approach as they travel across the Country.
The August 8 Panel Session in St. John was the kick-off event of the informal NEB sessions that will see the Panel travel to 10 communities along the pipeline route before December. A formal hearing process will begin in the summer of 2017 and a final decision will be made by the NEB in March of 2018.
ECELAW continues to stand up for the environment in Atlantic Canada. We believe everyone should have the right to a healthy environment and we rely on donations from supporters like you to allow us to advocate on your behalf. Please donate today.