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Removing hearing panel members won’t solve Energy East’s problems (Letter to the Editor – Published in Toronto Star, September 11, 2016)

September 1, 2016

The Editors

The Toronto Star
1 Yonge St
Toronto, Ontario

Re: Time to Earn Public Trust (September 1, 2016)

Dear Sir/Madam,

The NEB's problems around the review of the proposed Energy East Pipeline run far deeper than some potentially inappropriate meetings on the part of the hearing panel members.

The Harper government's Bill C-38 amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, National Energy Board Act and other important federal environmental legislation stripped the federal review and approval processes of any potential to function as legitimate forums for evidence based-discussions of the impacts, risks and long-term implications of major energy development and transportation projects in Canada. That reality was made clear by the response of provincial and municipal governments, First Nations and environmental stakeholders to the NEB's 2013 approval the Northern Gateway pipeline. It was further reinforced by the Federal court's rejection of the NEB's approval of that project earlier this year. Commitments to reform these processes were one of the central features of the Liberal Party's 2015 election platform.

Yet the Trudeau government has so far declined to reverse the damage done through bill C-38. Rather it effectively decided to allow the review of the Energy East Pipeline to proceed under the legislative framework left in place by Mr.Harper. The jurisdictional, legal, political, geographic complexities of Energy East project make the Northern Gateway pipeline look like a walk in the park. In that context, there is no serious prospect of the outcome of the NEB's review being accepted as legitimate by a wide range of important governmental and non-governmental actors.

The federal government needs to recognize the futility of trying to proceed with a review of the Energy East pipeline under the existing legislative and institutional structures. The review of the project needs to be placed on hold pending the completion of the government's recently announced review of its environmental regulatory and approvals processes, and the establishment of a process capable of answering the serious questions about how projects like Energy East can be reconciled with Canada's international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Yours sincerely,

Mark S. Winfield, Ph.D.


Co-Chair, Sustainable Energy Initiative

Faculty of Environmental Studies

York University