Justin Trudeau has taken a dysfunctional pipeline regulatory system and made it not merely worse, but a potentially impregnable barrier.
In “interim” changes to the system overseen by the National Energy Board, the Liberals announced on Wednesday that they would insert a ministerial representative into the Trans Mountain review as part of “deeper consultations with Indigenous peoples” (whose “traditional knowledge” would be incorporated); appoint three additional members to the NEB for the review of Energy East; extend the review process for both proposed pipelines; further open a consultation process whose fundamental problem is that its openness has been used as a weapon; and add estimates of the upstream greenhouse gas emissions linked to the pipelines, thus putting another club in the hands of diehard opponents.
Earlier this week, Trudeau, attempting to sound like Solomon, but also taking another gratuitous shot at his predecessor, Stephen Harper, claimed that he would not be a “cheerleader” for pipelines. But Harper was never a waver of pompoms.
He was rather concerned that the regulatory system had been brought to a halt. The Liberal reforms add to the hundreds of millions of dollars that pipeline companies have poured into gaining regulatory approval, and further deter investors, who crave regulatory certainty. But who knows? Maybe that’s the plan.
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna stressed during the announcement on Wednesday that it wouldn’t be a matter of moving back to “square one” for Trans Mountain, which is currently nearing the end of a review by the NEB.
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