Energy East and the Review Process

What is Energy East? 

How does the approvals process work?

What is the National Energy Board?

How do I get to have a say?

What about the Ontario Energy Board?

 

What is Energy East?

Energy East is a west-to-east oil pipeline project being developed by TransCanada, a Canadian oil and gas distributor and energy company.  The pipeline would span more than 4500 km, from Hardisty, AB to marine terminals at Cacouna, QC, and Saint John, NB.  In Northwestern Ontario, the project would involve retrofitting the existing natural gas pipeline, line 100-4, of the Canadian Mainline, as well as construction of seven new pumping stations.

EEmap

NW Ontario pumping stations.
NW Ontario pumping stations.
Route of Energy East through the Kenora area.  Photo courtesy of Crystal Greene.
Route of Energy East through the Kenora area. Photo courtesy of Crystal Greene.

The product that would be shipped through this pipeline would be diluted bitumen, an unrefined crude oil product that is a mixture of semi-solid, coarse bitumen and petroleum-based solvents.  The product would be refined in New Brunswick, with the solvent, or diluent, being recovered and shipped back to Alberta in rail tanker cars.

Bitumen is a coarse, semi-solid petroleum product that must be mixed with naphtha-based solvents to make it fluid enough to flow through a pipeline under high pressure.
Bitumen is a coarse, semi-solid petroleum product that must be mixed with naphtha-based solvents to make it fluid enough to flow through a pipeline under high pressure.

TransCanada filed its preliminary project description for Energy East with the National Energy Board in April 2014, and it is expected to file its complete, comprehensive project application in August 2014.  The company hopes to have the various legs of the project in service by 2016 through 2018.

 

How does the approvals process work?

TransCanada, through its Energy East Pipeline Company, is expected to submit a comprehensive project application with the National Energy Board in August 2014.  A 3-member review panel from the National Energy Board (NEB) will review the application to ensure its completeness, and once the panel is satisfied that the application is complete, a 15-month hearings process will commence.  At the end of these 15 months, the NEB will issue a report and recommendations regarding the project, which will either support the project’s advancement, or reject it.  (It is worth noting, however, that the NEB has NEVER outright rejected a project proposal in the past, opting instead to impose conditions that proponents must meet in order to proceed.)

The NEB’s report and recommendations will then inform the Prime Minster and his / her federal cabinet as they make the final, decisive decision on the project.

Ultimately, approval or rejection of Energy East lies in the hands of federal cabinet.

 

What is the National Energy Board?

In Canada, pipelines and pipeline projects are regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB).

The NEB is a quasi-judicial tribunal, meaning that its hearings processes operate similar to a court, and it may hear testimony from experts, citizens, impacted parties, and the company through the course of any of its hearings processes.

 

How do I get to have a say?

The formal process of engagement for having your concerns heard regarding Energy East involves filing an application with the National Energy Board, requesting permission to participate in the hearings process.  There are two methods for participating: 1) a written Letter of Comment; 2) filing an Intervention.  Both methods require prospective participants to apply within a 30-day window at the beginning of the 15-month hearings process.

The NEB will consider as prospective participants anyone who:

  • is directly impacted
  • has relevant information or expertise

The NEB will determine who can participate and how they can participate.

Access a copy of the NEB information booklet from their recent Information Sessions: Hearings Process for Energy East

Listen to the NEB’s information session from July 9, 2014 on the Hearings Process for Energy East: http://chirb.it/fssneK

What about the Ontario Energy Board?
While pipelines are under the federal jurisdiction of the National Energy Board, in Ontario, the Ontario Minister of the Environment tasked the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) with conducting community consultations with Ontarians, including First Nations and Aboriginal communities.  The first of two rounds of consultations began in early 2014, and the second round will conclude in the fall of 2014.  The purpose of these consultations is to hear Ontarians’ concerns about four issues:

  • The impacts on Ontario natural gas consumers in terms of prices, reliability and access to supply, especially for those consumers living in eastern and northern Ontario
  • The impacts on pipeline safety and the natural environment in Ontario
  • The impacts on Aboriginal communities in Ontario, in particular how treaty and Aboriginal rights may be affected
  • The short and long term economic impacts of the project in Ontario

The OEB will use the results of this consultation to report to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and this information will help shape Ontario’s case as an intervenor in the National Energy Board process outlined above.

The OEB’s reports from the first round of consultations can be found here.   The OEB also has an extensive links and resources page that is well worth checking out.

Five people presented at the March 25, 2014 OEB meeting in Kenora, including Teika Newton, who presented concerns on behalf of Transition Initiative Kenora.  Many other residents provided written comment through letters submitted to the OEB during the first round of consultation too.

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