Canada needs single body to assess oil pipelines, mines: panel

Wed Apr 5, 2017 3:59pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada needs a single federal authority to assess the potential impact of major projects such oil pipelines and mines, a move that could help quell environmental protests, an official panel said on Wednesday.

Responsibility for examining the potential impact of projects on federally-regulated land in Canada is shared between three separate entities, a much-criticised system that the Liberal government says the public does not trust.

Protracted protests last year forced Ottawa to veto one major pipeline from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific Coast and are dragging out study of another line to the Atlantic.

The panel called for the creation of an independent federal Impact Assessment Authority, which would pay more attention to both the long-term implications of a project and the views of aboriginal populations.

"If there is trust in the authority conducting the impact assessment, the outcome is more likely to be considered fair and thus be accepted by all parties, even if their particular positions do not win the day," the panel concluded.

Critics are particularly unhappy that oil and gas projects are assessed by the National Energy Board (NEB), which is also the federal energy regulator. The panel said some people feel the board was biased towards the industry.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who appointed the four-person panel last year, told reporters she would take the recommendation to create a single assessment body seriously.

Reuters reported last year that the Liberal government would consider stripping the NEB of sole oversight for new projects as part of reforms it hopes to have in place by 2018.   Continued...