The National Energy Board has a credibility issue it can no longer ignore

Globe Editorial | August 29 | It is never acceptable for people to disrupt a public meeting, as a few screaming protesters did in Montreal on Monday during the National Energy Board’s hearings into the Energy East pipeline. That the protesters forced the cancellations of the hearings for the day is even more galling.

But to dismiss the protesters’ main contention – that the credibility of the NEB has been compromised – is self-defeating. The NEB has botched these hearings, perhaps beyond repair, and ignoring this fact will not somehow make it go away.

The problem dates back to last year, when two of the three commissioners overseeing the review of the Energy East pipeline met with former Quebec premier Jean Charest. Mr. Charest was under contract at the time as a lobbyist for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the ambitious project to bring Alberta crude oil to Saint John.

Caught red-handed, the NEB originally claimed that the commissioners had not discussed the pipeline with Mr. Charest. Then it admitted they had and apologized for being misleading, all the while claiming the commissioners were unaware Mr. Charest was a TransCanada lobbyist. Then it tried to downplay the fiasco by saying the commissioners had undertaken similar meetings with other pipeline stakeholders, including environmental groups, as they prepared for the current public hearings.

Its contradictory denials have only dug a deeper hole for the NEB. There is no evidence of unethical behaviour, but the perception is terrible. A poll taken by the CBC in March found that 50.5 per cent of respondents said they had little or no confidence in the NEB.

This is not good. Canada needs the Energy East pipeline. It can deliver Alberta crude oil safely to a deep-water port on the Atlantic and open new markets for an industry that is vital to our economy.

To see it stalled or cancelled not for evidence-based reasons but because of political outcry created by the NEB’s mishandling of its own affairs would be a disaster. The only option now may be to ask the commissioners who met Mr. Charest to recuse themselves from the proceedings. If that is what it takes, that’s what should happen. The NEB can no longer ignore this issue and hope it blows over.

The Globe and Mail, Published Monday, Aug. 29, 2016 6:00PM EDT, as posted at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/the-national-energy-board-has-a-credibility-issue-it-can-no-longer-ignore/article31599667/

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NEB cancels 2 days of Energy East hearings in Montreal after ‘violent disruption’

Montreal mayor cancels appearance to open proceedings, calling them a ‘circus’

By Benjamin Shingler, Stephen Smith, CBC News Posted: Aug 29, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 29, 2016 9:11 PM ET

The National Energy Board hearings in Montreal on the proposed Energy East pipeline were cancelled on Monday after protesters stormed into the room, marking a difficult start to a process already subject to intense criticism in Quebec.

The second day of hearings, scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed, but no new date was given.

“This decision was made in light of a violent disruption in the hearing room this morning which threatened the security of everyone involved in the panel session,” the NEB said in a statement.

The NEB said it will provide more details tomorrow.

The ruckus began before Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre addressed the proceedings as the scheduled first speaker.

In the downtown conference room where the hearings were set to take place, one protester ran to the table where the commissioners were seated and almost knocked it over. Others held up a banner at the front of the room.

Police entered soon after to remove the protesters.

Coderre cancelled his appearance, calling the event a “circus.” The Montreal mayor has been an outspoken critic of the proposed $15.7-billion pipeline.

News of the cancellation reverberated across the country, with federal Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr telling an Edmonton business crowd he’s concerned protesters were able to shut down today’s hearing.

“Not everyone’s going to agree. But everyone should have a right to express themselves, and that’s a fundamental Canadian value,” he said.

  • A demonstrator holds a child as they disrupt the National Energy Board public hearing. The ruckus began before Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre addressed the proceedings as the scheduled first speaker.
  • A demonstrator confronts Montreal mayor Denis Coderre. A man ran to the table where the commissioners were seated and almost knocked it over, after which police arrived to remove the protesters.
  • Security guards try to restrain a demonstrator at the National Energy Board hearings. NEB commissioners had already left the room.
  • A demonstrator is arrested at the hearings. Coderre decided to cancel his appearance following the chaos, calling the proceedings a
  • Canadian Piping Trades Union Local 144 members chanted,
  • About 200 people gathered outside the Centre Mont-Royal, where the hearings were scheduled to be held, with many expressing support for the project and others opposing it.
  • A demonstrator is surrounded by police officers after being arrested. Though this meeting was cancelled, the board must submit its report by March 2018.
  • A demonstrator is taken away by police after disrupting the National Energy Board public hearing on Aug. 29, 2016 in Montreal into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project proposed by TransCanada. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
  • A demonstrator holds a child as they disrupt the National Energy Board public hearing. The ruckus began before Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre addressed the proceedings as the scheduled first speaker. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
  • A demonstrator confronts Montreal mayor Denis Coderre. A man ran to the table where the commissioners were seated and almost knocked it over, after which police arrived to remove the protesters. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
  • Security guards try to restrain a demonstrator at the National Energy Board hearings. NEB commissioners had already left the room. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
  • A demonstrator is arrested at the hearings. Coderre decided to cancel his appearance following the chaos, calling the proceedings a “circus.” (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
  • Canadian Piping Trades Union Local 144 members chanted, “We want to work,” but they were countered by cries of “we want to drink water,” by protesters concerned about the project’s potential impact on the environment. (Charles Contant/Radio-Canada)
  • About 200 people gathered outside the Centre Mont-Royal, where the hearings were scheduled to be held, with many expressing support for the project and others opposing it. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
  • A demonstrator is surrounded by police officers after being arrested. Though this meeting was cancelled, the board must submit its report by March 2018. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

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Three protesters were arrested, said Montreal police Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant.

Two men, aged 35 and 44, could face charges of obstruction and assault

of a peace officer, while a 29-year-old woman could face a charge of obstruction of a peace officer.

One of the men was detained and the other two people were released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

Duelling rallies

Outside, amid a heavy police presence, about 200 people gathered outside the Centre Mont-Royal, where the hearings were scheduled, with many expressing support for the project and others opposing it.

A large contingent of Canadian Piping Trades Union Local 144 members showed up in support of the project, and chanted, “we want to work.”

But it was countered by a chorus of “we want to drink water,” by protesters concerned about the project’s potential impact on the environment.

“Leave the resources in the ground,” said Emily Drysdale, a Montreal resident who was holding up a pipeline that said “no pipeline.”

“It’s the big multinational companies that are making money on the oil.”

Coderre was to appear at the hearings on behalf of the Montreal Metropolitan Community, just days after he called for their suspension after learning that NEB commissioners met with former Quebec premier Jean Charest while he was working for TransCanada.

The NEB apologized, saying it wasn’t aware that Charest was working with the company at the time.

‘This is not a time to take chances’: Coderre

The protests came as Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête revealed the proposed pipeline network for Energy East comprises more than 1,000 fittings possibly made of substandard material.

“It’s a matter of having answers,” Coderre said, referring to both the Charest affair and the Radio-Canada investigation.

“This is not a time to take chances. There’s too many problems.”

Coderre has repeatedly raised concerns about whether the potential environmental risks outweigh the pipeline’s possible economic benefits.

Three First Nations chiefs, among others, were also scheduled to speak at Monday’s hearing.

They held a news conference instead.

“We all have one common thread — and that’s safeguarding our environment for future generations,” said Grand Chief of Kanesatake Serge Simon.

He’s concerned the pipeline would pass through the Ottawa River close to the Mohawk community.

Tim Duboyce, a spokesman for TransCanada, said the company is eager to “begin the sessions in Montreal after five such productive sessions in New Brunswick — and we will be ready when the sessions resume.”

The NEB is scheduled to hear from an array of speakers, in support of and opposed to the pipeline, as part of its process to decide whether to approve TransCanada’s bid to build the 4,500-kilometre pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta to Eastern Canada.

The hearings are also scheduled for several other cities, including Quebec City, before concluding in Kingston, Ont., in December.

The board must submit its report by March 2018 after which the federal cabinet will have the final say on the project.

With files from Jonathan Montpetit and The Canadian Press, as posted at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/neb-hearings-energy-east-protest-quebec-2016-1.3739215

Pipeline wars: Natural Resources Minister Carr talks about rejigging NEB

Edmonton Journal | August 29 | Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is convinced Canadians are a reasonable bunch who will accept pipeline decisions.

Not because they will all agree — “I’m a realist,” he quipped Monday — but because they will have a chance to have their say.

Speaking to a room of around 150 people at an Edmonton breakfast organized by the Alberta Enterprise Group, Carr said if the government follows the right process for pipeline assessments, “most Canadians will say, ‘I’ve had a chance to be heard, that was a reasonable way of making a decision.’ ”

He might be hard-pressed explaining that to protesters who took over Day 1 of the National Energy Board Energy East pipeline hearing in Montreal, forcing NEB director Jean-Denis Charlebois to scuttle the day’s meeting.

Many of the protesters voicing their opposition to the pipeline called the hearings illegitimate and a masquerade; that’s why the NEB is being reformed, Carr said Monday — to ensure Canadians trust the pipeline assessment process.

“The whole operation is designed to hear from Canadians,” he said. “Whatever their point of view might be, we think they should all have a right to say it.”

A demonstrator is taken away by a police officer after disrupting the National Energy Board public hearing into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project proposed by TransCanada Monday, August 29, 2016 in Montreal.

A demonstrator is taken away by a police officer after disrupting the National Energy Board public hearing into the proposed $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline project proposed by TransCanada Monday, August 29, 2016 in Montreal. Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

With pipeline hearings cancelled on one side of the country, here in Alberta, Carr met with Premier Rachel Notley and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to chat energy infrastructure.

Both Notley and Iveson are pro-pipeline, which perfectly illustrates the challenge facing Carr and the federal government: If the NEB approves the pipeline, it’s on the Trudeau government to make a final decision.

Carr told the Edmonton breakfast that government was elected to make those “tough decisions,” but what’s tougher — to say “yes,” or say “no” to a pipeline?

“I don’t know,” Carr replied. “I think what you do is, you make the decision based on the best evidence that you have, through a process that most people would say is fair and reasonable. That’s the objective and that’s what we’re doing.”

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt laughed Monday when asked if people would indeed be reasonable and accept pipeline decisions.

Far from it, Bratt says.

He contends that if the NEB approves a pipeline, and the final yay or nay is lobbed into the federal government’s court, it runs the risk of pitting one side of Canada against the other.

“You’ve got people in Alberta demanding every pipeline go through, and you’ve got people in Vancouver saying TransMountain should be stopped, in Montreal saying Energy East should be stopped,” Bratt said. “What do you do when it ends up on your desk?”

Bratt said the problem is that the biggest beneficiaries of a pipeline are those at the beginning of the route and those at the end.

Take Energy East, which if built will carry oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Saint John, N.B.

“Who are the biggest supporters of the pipeline? People in Alberta and people in New Brunswick,” Bratt said. “Who’s most upset about it? Everybody in between.”

While the federal government is trying to get away from the pipeline cheerleading it says went on under Stephen Harper, Bratt said “at a certain point, they’re going to have to say something.”

With files from the Montreal Gazette, egraney, twitter.com/EmmaLGraney, as posted 29 August 2016 at http://edmontonjournal.com/business/energy/pipeline-wars-natural-resources-minister-carr-talks-about-rejigging-neb

Parts of TransCanada pipeline network made of potentially substandard material: documents

CBC | August 28 | More than 1,000 fittings are possibly weaker than expected, making them less resistant to ruptures

Documents obtained by Radio-Canada show TransCanada’s pipeline network, including the Keystone pipeline, is made up of hundreds of connectors made of possibly substandard material.
Documents obtained by Radio-Canada show TransCanada’s pipeline network, including the Keystone pipeline, is made up of hundreds of connectors made of possibly substandard material. (The Canadian Press)

Documents from TransCanada and obtained by Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête reveal the company’s pipeline network, including a stretch that would be used to transport oil if the Energy East project goes ahead, comprises more than 1,000 fittings possibly made of substandard material.

The National Energy Board (NEB) has known since 2008 that some elbows and steel fittings installed in Canadian pipelines are too thin and therefore less resistant to rupture, but the regulator only issued a safety notice about the problem in February.

However, the NEB’s notice said existing industry accepted standards appear to be “insufficient” and that individual companies should create their own enhanced standards.

Cooper insists TransCanada goes beyond the requirements and that its fittings are thicker than they need to be.

Listing potentially problematic pipe fittings

The NEB required companies under its jurisdiction to provide a list indicating the locations of all potentially problematic fittings.

The substandard fittings were traced to manufacturer Canadoil Asia with production originating from Thailand.

TransCanada provided a list of all its fittings and elbows made by Canadoil Asia in Thailand. More than 1,200 fittings are part of the Keystone pipeline project and another 225 are part of its natural gas network, including 30 in the stretch that ends in Les Cèdres, Que. west of Montreal.

Another affected section, in North Bay, Ont., will be converted to transport oil if the Energy East project goes ahead.

“In no way did the list we provided suggest the fittings were defective,” said Cooper.

Denis Coderre calls for suspension of Energy East hearings over Charest affair
Same issue led to Alberta pipeline break

In a written statement, TransCanada said it conducted a comprehensive technical assessment of its network “after discovering that some fittings supplied by manufacturers were weaker than those we had ordered.” The company emphasized it took these steps before the official directive was issued and ensures that its networks “operate safely.”

A Transportation Safety Board report and an NEB audit into a 2013 incident in Buffalo Creek, Alta., where a pipeline transporting natural gas ruptured, confirmed the elbow where the failure the break originated contained substandard materials.

Energy East pipeline would cross 828 bodies of water in Quebec
An estimated 16.5 million cubic metres of natural gas were released, but the rupture did not result in a fire, no one was injured and no buildings had to be evacuated.

That pipe fitting was made by a different company, EZEflow, which has since made improvements to both its manufacturing procedures and its quality assurance programs.

Engineer Evan Vokes basically predicted that kind of accident would happen. He was fired from TransCanada in 2012 after publicly denouncing what he said were significant shortcomings in the company’s practices.

He said he repeatedly witnessed inferior parts being installed while working for TransCanada. His concerns were later validated by an NEB audit.

Some fittings were re-covered as a precaution, but Vokes is concerned that’s not enough.

“The thing is, they haven’t restored the fundamental material property of toughness, which stops the cracks from growing and exploding,” he said in an interview.

NEB hearings on the Energy East project were to take place in Montreal on Monday, but were cancelled for the day after protesters disrupted the proceedings.

ANALYSIS: National Energy Board fights to restore legitimacy as Quebec hearings begin
Corrections

A previous version of this story stated more than 1,200 fittings in the Keystone pipeline and 225 in its natural gas network don’t meet the NEB requirements. In fact, it is only a possibility those fittings are substandard.

CBC News Posted: Aug 29, 2016 11:04 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 29, 2016 3:45 PM ET

National Energy Board (NEB) panel members must recuse themselves to ensure Energy East pipeline review is impartial, group says.

News Release | August 22, 2016 | Ecojustice
“The NEB is charged with conducting a fair and unbiased assessment process for TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline,” Charles Hatt, Ecojustice lawyer. “Canadians cannot trust in that mission when panel members hold closed-door meetings about Energy East with interested stakeholders, including with Jean Charest, a TransCanada consultant. The perception of bias here is real, and it is troubling.”

In January 2015, two members of the Energy East review panel met privately and discussed Energy East with interested stakeholders, including Jean Charest who was then a consultant for TransCanada. When questioned about the meetings in July 2016, a Board spokesman claimed that Energy East was not discussed. But this claim was false. An access to information request filed by the National Observer uncovered emails and notes showing that one of the Energy East panel members actually set up the meeting and invited discussion of Energy East. In fact, the meetings featured discussion of communication strategies to promote pipelines in Québec, the panel’s pending completeness decision, and even the potential to “carve out” a chapter of the panel’s eventual report for an unclear purpose.

Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of Transition Initiative Kenora (TIK), have requested the two NEB panel members involved in the meetings recuse themselves from the Energy East review panel.

“Communities and grassroots folks like us that will be impacted by the Energy East pipeline are depending on a NEB review process that is unbiased,” said Teika Newton, Transition Initiative Kenora. “The NEB’s panel members should step down, plain and simple.”

The NEB is charged with conducting the review process for TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline. Its job is to make a final and independent recommendation to the federal Cabinet on whether the pipeline should go ahead.

Ecojustice lawyers are representing TIK in the Energy East pipeline hearings.

View the notice of motion re: recusal motion

As Canada’s only national environmental law charity, Ecojustice is building the case for a better earth.