Saturday, August 22, 2015

On incomplete assessments

Yes, there's plenty of reason to be outraged by the fact that the National Energy Board is delaying its review of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion - and perhaps setting the review back significantly - so a lobbyist for the project can take over as a board member.

But it's worth noting that the delay itself could have some extremely dangerous effects:
Bill C-38 imposes new time limits on some federal environmental assessments. Assessments conducted by independent panels must be completed within two years and, by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, one year. As well, the National Energy Board’s review of pipeline projects must be completed within 15 months – including an environmental assessment, if one is required
That's right: the Harper Cons' choice of an oil lobbyist to regulate oil developments won't just put a thumb on the scale for future assessments, but could also directly limit what evidence can be provided in existing assessments. And depending on the length of the delay, the result could be to run out the clock on any meaningful review at all.

Of course, the panel dealing with the Trans-Mountain application can't be entirely faulted for addressing a difficult choice between impartiality and thoroughness. But the fact that the Cons are once again doing their best to limit both should remind us why we need a more credible government to oversee Canada's future development.

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