OTTAWA – Five things to know about pipeline approvals in Canada:
— National Energy Board hearings on Kinder Morgan twinning its Trans Mountain pipeline are almost over; the government is extending the deadline for a decision by four months, pushing it to next December, to allow for an examination of the greenhouse gas emissions created during the extraction and processing of oil destined for the new line. In the case of TransCanada’s controversial Energy East project, for which hearings have not yet begun, the government is extending the project review period by an extra six months and adding three temporary members to the National Energy Board in an effort to do greater public consultation.
— The government will appoint a ministerial adviser to consult with indigenous communities along the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipelines routes, effectively creating a parallel process to the National Energy Board review. Ultimately, said Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, “cabinet will decide” on the fate of the pipelines.
— The government’s new transitory review process was promptly panned by the federal Conservatives, who framed it as another layer of bureaucracy and red tape aimed at slowing resource development in Canada, designed by a party that’s ideologically opposed to the idea of developing natural resources writ large. “This sends a terrible signal to investors,” said Tory MP Candice Bergen, who said it’s far from the “glimmer of hope” the energy sector had been looking for.
— According to the National Energy Board’s 2016 energy forecast report, new pipeline developments are less a factor in pushing up Canadian oil production than is the benchmark price per barrel. The report suggests that “although pipeline infrastructure may impact Canadian oil production, it is one of many factors that may do so. The High and Low Price cases suggest that crude oil prices, driven by global supply and demand dynamics, are also an important — perhaps the most important — determinant of Canadian production growth.”
— The Calgary-based National Energy Board has regulated pipelines in Canada since 1959. It oversees approval and compliance issues for 73,000 kilometres of oil and gas pipelines that in 2014 moved about $162 billion worth of product.