Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock | Screening June 14 @ 7 pm, Emanuel United Church, 395 Lakeshore Drive, North Bay

Screening on Wednesday June 14th at 7:00 p.m. at Emanuel United Church, 395 Lakeshore Drive, North Bay, Ontario.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota captures world attention through their peaceful resistance against the U.S. government’s plan to construct an oil pipeline through their land.

Genres: Documentary
Directing: James Spione Josh Fox Myron Dewey
Country: US
Runtime: 84 min.
Quality: HD
Release Date: 2017-04-22

Read more at More


TransCanada wants NEB to change the process for input on draft issues list for Energy East review

TransCanada has written to the National Energy Board reviewing the Energy East pipeline conversion project to argue that TransCanada should have the opportunity to not only comment on the draft issues list (they already have that opportunity, same as everyone else).

In a letter to the NEB, TransCanada’s lawyers complain that in the NEB’s letter which invited public input on draft Lists of Issues and draft EA Factors they set out directions for the public input but “did not, however, provide an opportunity to the Applicants to respond to the comments filed by others”. They then go on to argue that “the Applicants have a legal right to reply” and explain that “the purpose of this letter is to ask the Board to exercise its discretion to change the comment process to provide an opportunity to the Applicants to respond to the comments filed by others.”

The letter is available online at

Auditor General releases report on Fossil Fuel Subsidies

2017 Spring Reports of the Auditor General of Canada were released today, including Report 7 on Fossil Fuel Subsidies. The report is online.

The “overall message” of the Findings, Recommendations, and Responses is summarized as follows:

7.13 Overall, we found that the Department of Finance Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada did not define what the 2009 G20 commitment to phase out and rationalize inefficient fossil fuel subsidies means in the context of Canada’s national circumstances.

7.14 We found that since 2009, six subsidies to the fossil fuel sector were reformed by legislation. Other tax measures for this sector were not reformed. We also found that the Department of Finance Canada did not consider all tax measures to determine whether they were inefficient fossil fuel subsidies under the commitment. The Department also did not develop an implementation plan with timelines to support the phase-out and rationalization by 2025 of remaining tax measures that are inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

7.15 In addition, the Department of Finance Canada refused to provide all the analyses that we requested for tax measures that focus on the fossil fuel sector. As a result, we could not provide assurance that the Department analyzed the social, economic, and environmental aspects of all these tax measures to support informed decision making relating to Canada’s 2009 G20 commitment.

7.16 We also found that while Environment and Climate Change Canada developed a plan to guide the initial stages of its work, it did not yet know the extent of federal non-tax measures that could be inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

7.17 These findings matter because without a clear understanding of the fossil fuel subsidies covered by the G20 commitment and without an implementation plan with timelines, the departments cannot ensure that they are providing the support needed for Canada to meet the commitment by 2025. Meeting this commitment will have a positive impact on the health of Canadians and the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and wasteful consumption of fossil fuels, and by encouraging investments in clean energy.

Full Report

Audit at a Glance

WCEL on NEB Modernization Panel report: The good, the workable and the ugly

For Immediate Release – May 15, 2017

NEB Modernization Panel report: The good, the workable and the ugly

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – The report released today by the Expert Panel on the Modernization of the National Energy Board (NEB) contains a mixed bag of recommendations to significantly overhaul Canada’s system for regulating pipelines and other energy projects – some are positive, while others are completely out of step with leading thinking, according to West Coast Environmental Law Association.

“The Panel clearly understood that the NEB is suffering a crisis of confidence, and that what was needed was a reconstruction, not a renovation,” said Eugene Kung, Staff Counsel. “We’re pleased that the report recommends revamping the NEB and creating new bodies that could improve energy information and Indigenous decision-making. We’re also glad to see that the Panel recommends establishing a clear and coherent national energy strategy, which gives us an opportunity to properly plan to meet international climate goals.”

However, the environmental lawyers say that the report completely misses the mark when it comes to how projects like oil pipelines should be assessed, and disagree with the Panel’s approach to determining whether individual energy projects are in the national interest.

“The Panel has effectively recommended replacing environmental assessments – our main tool for publicly and thoroughly evaluating the risks and benefits of proposals – with a politicized ‘national interest determination’ made without all the information about a project’s environmental implications,” said Staff Counsel Anna Johnston. “It is inconsistent with the recommendations by the Expert Panel appointed to review Canada’s environmental assessment process, and totally out of step with leading-edge thinking.”

The Environmental Assessment Panel report was released April 5th, and followed the recommendations of many experts, academics, Indigenous groups and the general public.

“The NEB Panel’s recommendation for determining ‘national interest’ is putting the cart before the horse. How can you determine whether or not a project aligns with policy objectives, respects Indigenous rights or carries unacceptable risks before a full impact assessment is conducted?” Johnston added.

The federal government is accepting public comments on the NEB Panel’s report until June 14th, 2017. West Coast Environmental Law Association will continue to engage in this important work to strengthen Canada’s environmental laws and regulatory processes.


Trudeau-appointed panel recommends scrapping NEB

A panel of experts appointed by the Trudeau government is recommending the shutdown of Canada’s scandal-plagued pipeline regulator.

In a groundbreaking report, the panel made 26 sweeping recommendations, including the replacement of the Calgary-based regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), with a new Ottawa-based organization called the Canadian Energy Transmission Commission. It also recommended the creation of a new energy information agency.

The recommendations follow years of public criticism that the regulator, the NEB is biased and too close to the Calgary-based energy companies, which it is supposed to oversee objectively. They were based on feedback from nearly 200 people, with a special focus on indigenous voices, in 10 major Canadian cities, along with public feedback sent in online.

They said this would also be consistent with emerging energy trends as pipelines become less important and renewable energy is expected to grow.

“Everywhere we were there was this issue with confidence, transparency, indepedence, safety and security… that was repeated constantly and that’s why we have to listen to them and make this major reform,” said Hélène Lauzon, co-chair of the panel and a lawyer who presides over the Quebec Business Council on the Environment.

“They had this perception that the NEB was not impartial, that they were biased when they were generating their reports. All these recommendations work together and if the minister wishes to answer all the (public concerns), it would be better to go ahead with all the recommendations. We think they are realistic and feasible.”

The proposed commission would retain an office in Calgary and its expertise on pipeline safety in that city. But a new board of directors, support staff with other functions such as an expanded expertise on electricity transmission issues, and communications officers would be added in Ottawa, panel members told National Observer in an interview on Monday.

A representative of the NEB said the regulator has not yet had time to review the recommendations thoroughly, but is open to the report’s suggestions.

“Obviously, as an organization, we are looking forward to anything that helps makes us better,” NEB communications officer Rebecca Tayor. “We’re going to be taking a look at the recommendations, then it’s going to be up to the minister to decide whether he implements any of them.”

Lack of trust, impartiality a “repeated theme”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his natural resources minister, Jim Carr, a mandate to “modernize” the regulator in order to restore public trust in federal oversight of major energy projects, including major pipeline expansion proposals such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion and TransCanada’s Energy East project. The government subsequently created the panel to consult with Canadians and study the issue.

Throughout a cross-country tour, members of the panel noted that questions about trust were raised often throughout their consultations.

Gary Merasty, a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and a former Liberal MP was was also a panel co-chair, said the recommendations were also made to improve the government’s engagement with First Nations.

“More than any other group, the expectation of indigenous people is huge through these projects,” he told National Observer. “What we’ve heard is that we need to ensure indigenous are involved at the earliest opportunity possible.”

The panel also recommended introducing a new independent committee of public stakeholders, including indigenous representatives to be consulted on some of the ongoing operations issues of the new commission to restore trust in the oversight process. The panel also recommended a new ombudsman to deal with complaints.

Recusals in the midst of scandal

The regulator has also been targeted by fierce criticism from pipeline opponents who believe it overlooked critical indigenous, environmental, and scientific evidence in its recent reviews of the Kinder Morgan and TransCanada projects. It declined to permit cross-examination of evidence during the Kinder Morgan hearings, for example, and refused to grant intervener status to hundreds of concerned individuals and environmental groups.

In the case of the Energy East proposal, the entire panel assigned to review that TransCanada project was forced to recuse itself, along with the NEB’s chief executive Peter Watson, due to the appearance of bias last September following revelations uncovered by National Observer in July and August.

At the time, National Observer revealed that Watson and other senior NEB officials had met privately with a representative of TransCanada, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who gave them political advice about how to gain public support in Quebec for a new pipeline.

During an interview with National Observer in February, other members of the panel noted that one of the key problems they had identified was the NEB’s close proximity to the headquarters of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies in Calgary.

“This is something we have identified in terms of what we’ve heard,” said Lauzon, a lawyer who presides over the Quebec Business Council on the Environment, in February. “The perception is that because the head office is in Calgary, this is one of the reasons people believe it’s too close to the industry. We’ve heard the word ‘captured’ by the industry. So this is something we’re hearing and this is something which could be improved in terms of having more representation from all other stakeholders.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 1:45 p.m. on Monday with new comments from panel members. By Mike De Souza & Elizabeth McSheffrey in News, Energy, Politics | May 15th 2017

NEB Modernization Panel’s recommendations

Clipped from the executive summary of the Expert Panel on the Modernization of the National Energy Board:

Our review examined all of these elements and more, and we have developed a comprehensive vision for the future of energy transmission infrastructure regulation which, we believe, will chart an ambitious and thoroughly modern course as Canada enters a new era in the development of its vital energy sector.

All of our Panel’s recommendations are designed in the service of realizing FORWARD, TOGETHER – Enabling Canada’s Clean, Safe, and Secure Energy Future 4 this vision – described at length in the chapter Our Vision – and we see many of the actions we have recommended as mutually reinforcing and interdependent in achieving the ultimate goal of positioning the energy transmission infrastructure regulator as a modern, efficient, and effective regulator, which regains public trust. What is our vision? In broad strokes, we envision:

  • A regulatory system that aligns with a clearly defined and coherent national strategy to realize energy, economic, social, and environmental policy objectives.
  • A new, independent Canadian Energy Information Agency, separate from both policy and regulatory functions, accountable for providing decision-makers and the public with critical energy data, information, and analysis
  • A modern Canadian Energy Transmission Commission, which would replace the National Energy Board, governed by a Board of Directors, with decisions rendered by a separate group of Hearing Commissioners
  • For all major projects, a one year process to determine alignment with national interest by the Governor in Council before detailed project review or licensing decisions, informed by substantive Indigenous Consultation and stakeholder engagement
  • For all major projects (and other large undertakings), full environmental assessment and licensing by a two year Joint Canadian Energy Transmission Commission/Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Hearing Panel process, exercising authority under the enabling legislation of the respective organizations
  • Real and substantive participation of Indigenous peoples, on their own terms and in full accord with Indigenous rights, aboriginal and treaty rights, and title, in every aspect of energy regulation
  • A Canadian Energy Transmission Commission which radically increases the scale and scope of its stakeholder engagement to build trust and drive better outcomes for all Canadians
  • Better relationships with landowners, on whose land so much vital infrastructure sits We have endeavoured in our recommendations to address the most important concerns shared with us by Canadians, and to do so in a way that is both innovative and realistic.

There will be a sixty day comment period. The full report is online at