NEB chooses new Energy East review panel

Ask and you shall receive.

Last week I blogged about TransCanada Corp.’s $15.7 billion Energy East pipeline and suggested politely that the National Energy Board should hurry up and select the new three-person panel that will review this proposed mega-project.

The wait is over. Yesterday (Jan. 12), the NEB announced it’s chosen the new panel members and they are Don Ferguson, Carol Mayo and Marc Paquin.

The review of the 4,500-kilometre long pipeline that would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada (including Irving Oil’s 350,000 bpd Saint John refinery) and a yet-to-be-built marine terminal in Saint John, was stopped in September.

The stoppage was deemed necessary by the NEB after it was reported in late August that two NEB board members on the three-person Energy East review panel, Jacques Gauthier and Lyne Mercier, had met privately with former Quebec premier Jean Charest while he was on the payroll of TransCanada.

Protesters then stormed the NEB’s hearings in Montreal alleging that the meeting with Charest proved the review was rigged to reach an approval of Energy East.

The NEB immediately suspended the review process. In September the regulator announced all three panel members – Gauthier, Mercier and Roland George – had recused themselves from the review. The review was adjourned until a new panel was selected.

The panelists are from New Brunswick (Ferguson), Quebec (Paquin) and Ontario (Mayo). Ferguson is a long-time civil servant and a University of New Brunswick graduate.

Now the trio’s task is to get the review re-started. In the NEB’s press release announcing the new panel, it says “The new Hearing Panel members are bilingual, and bring considerable knowledge and experience. In the coming weeks, they will determine how to move forward with this review process.”

One of the challenges for the panel will be deciding what the review will look like. Does it start it from scratch? Do the panelists pick up where it was left off in Montreal? Or does it go with some other option?

Whatever it decides, the panel must make a decision soon. It must submit a report on the pipeline by March of 2018.

That might seem like plenty of time, but this is a huge project. It’s complex. It crosses multiple provincial jurisdictions, and there is all kinds of opposition and support for it throughout those jurisdictions.

Sorting through all this and giving Canadians confidence the review was fair and thorough won’t be easy.

So the sooner the new panel gets the review going, the better.

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