Government confident it can find new panel for TransCanada Energy East pipeline

Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:35am EDT
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(Story corrects university in eighth paragraph to University of Calgary, not University of Alberta)

By David Ljunggren and Nia Williams

(Reuters) - Canada's Liberal government on Tuesday expressed confidence it could appoint new panel members to assess TransCanada Corp's Energy East pipeline, even though industry observers say it might be hard to find qualified candidates.

A three-person National Energy Board panel charged with assessing the project in the largely French-speaking province of Quebec quit last Friday after it emerged two members had privately met a TransCanada consultant before the hearings formally started.

That unexpected move means the federal government now has to appoint a new panel for the board - which serves as the country's energy regulator - before the Quebec hearings can resume.

"We'll find them," Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters. "That's our responsibility, and we'll take it seriously and we'll do it as quickly as we can."

One source familiar with the file said Ottawa could have problems, citing a severe shortage of fluent French-speakers who knew enough about energy to be able to deliver a comprehensive and well-informed assessment on the pipeline.

Pressed about a lack of bilingual experts, Carr replied: "I'm not concerned about that."

NAB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley said by law, panel members must be able to hear evidence in English and French without an interpreter and be free of an apprehension of bias.   Continued...