CALGARY — Environmental groups are calling for the Energy East pipeline review process to start from scratch following the National Energy Board’s formal appointment of the new members of the review panel.
The request was made by Transition Initiative Kenora, which filed a notice of motion Tuesday arguing that all decisions made by the prior panel members have been put into question after they stepped down amidst questions about a potential conflict of interest last year.
“What we’re arguing is that because there is this reasonable apprehension of bias associated with that panel, any of those discretionary decisions that they’ve made carry the taint of that potential bias,” said Teika Newton, executive director of Transition Initiative Kenora.
“There’s no way to remedy that, to fix that, by adding in a new panel and starting midway through the process. The only way to fix the problem is to start all over again from the beginning,” she said.
Newton said the members who stepped down sat on the panel for close to two years and made dozens of procedural and substantive decisions in the review process, including determining the scope of issues to be considered and who would get intervenor status in the hearings.
Transition Initiative Kenora, which was one of two groups to file a motion last year calling for the prior panel members to be removed, requested that the current Energy East process be declared void or referred to the Federal Court of Appeal.
Environmental Defence made a similar call for a complete restart of the process Tuesday, saying the current review is “beyond repair,” while also going a step further and asking that the process not restart until the federal government’s review underway on the energy board itself is complete.
“The NEB should pull the plug on the Energy East review and restart it only when an overhauled review process with a credible climate test is in place,” said Environmental Defence’s Patrick DeRochie in a statement.
The Energy East hearings were stalled last fall after NEB chairman Peter Watson and vice-chair Lyne Mercier were accused of a conflict of interest for meeting privately with Jean Charest, who was a paid consultant at the time for the pipeline’s backer, TransCanada (TSX:TRP), to discuss public opinion around the controversial project.
TransCanada said it is focused on engaging with Canadians to discuss Energy East, to listen to questions and concerns, and to address them.