TORONTO, Feb. 18, 2016 /CNW/ – Mandating the National Energy Board (NEB) to weigh upstream greenhouse gas emissions in its pipeline approval process could stretch the federal government’s constitutional authority, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In “The National Energy Board’s Limits in Assessing Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” authors Benjamin Dachis and Grant Bishop assert that Ottawa’s review could also hinder the country’s ability to achieve promised emissions reductions at the lowest cost to the economy.
“Although the federal government only spoke of assessing upstream emissions and making the information public, it would be a mistake for the NEB to count upstream emissions against a pipeline project as part of its overall assessment,” state the authors. They give two reasons for their position.
First, doing so would possibly intrude into an area of provincial responsibility, as well as break the new federal government’s promise to defer to provincial measures for curbing emissions. “The reason the NEB has jurisdiction to approve pipelines is the federal constitutional power for ‘interprovincial works and undertakings’,” notes the report. “The federal government does not have specific authority for ‘the environment’,” they add. The Supreme Court has also emphasized that federal environmental assessments should not be a “Trojan horse” for the federal government to inject itself into general industrial regulation, which is a provincial responsibility.
Second, counting upstream emissions against a pipeline project would hinder, rather than help, Canada’s drive to achieve promised emissions reductions at the lowest cost to the economy. The report’s authors note that in tackling greenhouse gas emissions, the focus of Canadian governments should be on the reduction of Canada’s overall emissions, rather than targeting those of a particular industry or region. According to the report, “a more efficient means of achieving target greenhouse gas emissions reductions would be through greenhouse gas pricing.”
The authors conclude that, “the goal of the federal government’s review should be to maintain a tractable NEB process that respects the policies and processes of other federal agencies and provincial governments.”
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