All 19 politically-appointed members of the National Energy Board are slated to be swept from their positions under new environmental legislation introduced last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
While public servants would retain jobs in a restructured energy oversight regime, the bill introduced in the House of Commons is designed to jettison the current members of the pipeline regulator, the federal Natural Resources Department said on Tuesday. This means that once the legislation is adopted, the government would be able to remove a group of people appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government to oversee Canada’s energy sector.
Prior to the 2015 election, the former Harper government renewed the mandates of all permanent NEB members in a move that would have prevented the incoming government from making its own appointments to the regulator before the next federal election, scheduled for 2019.
These current political appointees have been at the head of a regulator which has been criticized in recent years for being too cozy with industry, including in a 2016 report by a Trudeau government-appointed panel.
Critics have also slammed the National Energy Board (NEB) for a series of controversial decisions made by the politically-appointed members, including a refusal to allow cross examination of company officials about testimony and evidence that was eventually used to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, a major west coast oil pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan.
In 2016, the regulator found itself embroiled in another scandal following an investigation by National Observer which revealed that its members and its chief executive officer, Peter Watson, had met privately with a consultant of pipeline operator TransCanada, former Quebec premier Jean Charest. At the time, the regulator, which has the powers of a federal court, was supposed to be leading an impartial and independent review of the TransCanada’s Energy East project.
The legislation introduced by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna last week, Bill C-69, creates a new agency to evaluate the impacts of proposed industrial projects as well as a new regulator to provide oversight of the energy sector. Public servants who work in the two existing organizations would transition into the new agency and the new Canadian Energy Regulator.
But unlike the NEB’s boss, the government said that the current president of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Ron Hallman, is slated to be president of the new Impact Assessment Agency after the new law is adopted, an agency spokeswoman said in an email.
In the case of the NEB, its successor would have a new board of directors as well as a group of regulatory commissioners, to be appointed by the Trudeau government. This means 19 current permanent and temporary Board members are facing termination as soon as Bill C-69 is adopted.
“Existing Board members (both permanent and temporary) appointed under the National Energy Board Act would cease to hold office on the coming into force of the Canadian Energy Regulator Act,” said Natural Resources Canada spokeswoman Catherine Leroux.
The new regulator would also separate the role of CEO and chair, currently held by Watson at the NEB, creating a new chief executive officer position and a separate chairperson of a board of directors. This change would allow the chief executive to manage day-to-day operations of the regulator, without getting involved in its regulatory decisions.
The department also said that the government wanted to ensure a smooth and orderly transition into the new organization, “to support efficient and predictable energy regulation in Canada.”
Leroux added that the government would undertake a “rigorous recruitment and selection” process for the new appointees, to reflect a range of views and expertise in environmental science, community development and Indigenous traditional knowledge.
An NEB spokesman referred questions about current Board members to Natural Resources Canada, but said in a statement that it would implement legislative changes if the bill, which proposes to repeal the existing National Energy Board Act, becomes law.
“We welcome any measures that strengthen our regulatory framework,” said spokesman Marc Drolet in an email to National Observer. “A robust and modern regulatory regime is important to keeping Canadians safe and protecting our environment. In the meantime, the NEB will continue to implement its existing legislation, the National Energy Board Act. Projects that have been approved or are currently being reviewed under the NEB Act are required to follow current legislation.”
with files from Carl Meyer
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 7:40 p.m. ET on Feb. 13 with additional comments from the NEB.
[Refer also to:
Peter Watson, appointed Chair & CEO NEB by Steve Harper, after Watson bullied and shamed Albertans with contaminated drinking water after nearby frac’ing, and tried to intimidate Ernst silent when he was Deputy Minister of Alberta Environment and worked hard to help Encana cover-up violating Alberta’s Water Act and contaminating Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers.
Peter Watson Reality Check
On March 8, 2006, during Ernst presenting with two Americans on the People’s Unconventional Gas Tour, warning Albertans about fracing and CBM, Peter Watson left Ernst a threatening, bullying voice mail, saying his staff informed him of what Ernst was saying in public and that he was “very concerned” about her “remarks” regarding the Minister and his meeting with his staff [on March 6, 2006], Ernst and two other landowners with contaminated water. Ernst called Peter back, and left a message that she was just telling the truth, that the people need to know what they are up against.
In 2007, Peter Watson (then Deputy Minister Environment) finally promised citizens – in writing – after years of doing little but help the AER (then EUB/ERCB) cover up Encana fracing Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers, that Alberta Environment would conduct a comprehensive investigation into the community-wide drinking water contamination. Alberta Environment knew in early 2005 (it was revealed via Freedom of Information records released to Ernst that they knew), and likely earlier, that Encana had violated the Water Act, frac’d Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers and diverted fresh water from CBM, without a permit. Alberta Environment did not warn the community and Encana kept fracing wells above the Base of Groundwater Protection at Rosebud.
After the Alberta Research Council (now Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures) agreed to Alberta Environment’s Terms of Reference and Dr. Alec Blyth submitted his proposal to Alberta Environment, Peter violated his written promise to the harmed citizens of Rosebud.
From the August 22, 2007 “Alberta Environment – Ernst Water Well Complain Review Proposal” by Dr. Alec Blyth, P.Geol., Ph.D., Alberta Research Council Inc.:
ARC will produce an independent conclusion based on factual, scientific, and technical data surrounding the investigation of the complaint.
Alberta Research Council will undertake the following:
1. Kick-off meeting (likely in Edmonton) with members of Alberta Environment to ensure Terms of Reference are understood and to transfer relevant file to ARC.
6. Make a conclusion independent of preliminary AENV conclusions identifying whether or not the investigation suggests groundwater has been impacted by the CBM extraction activities of Encana.
Dr. Alec Blyth signed his official contract with Alberta Environment on October 5, 2007 to do “independent” reviews (which ended up being controlled and edited by Alberta Environment, contrary to their Terms of Reference, dismissing the water contamination cases as natural).
From “Alberta Environment Agreement no. 08-0227, Memorandum of Agreement made this 5th day of October, 2007 Between Her Majesty the Queen in right of the Province of Alberta, as represented by the Minister of Environment (hereinafter referred to as the “Department”) and Alberta Research Council,” The Parties agree as follows:
2. ….the contractor shall be paid as follows:
Draft report $10,000
Final report $10,000
13. (2) All documents and information, all intellectual property…for the aforesaid:
(b) shall be treated by the Contractor with such care, security and strict confidence, and as a trade secret of the Department, so as to ensure the aforesaid are not disclosed or made known to any other person except with the written consent of the Department;
17. (2) Prior to the performance of the services in this agreement the Contractor shall provide to the Department a written safety plan. The safety plan shall address; the hazards of the services to be performed under this contract, the control measures that shall be implemented to eliminate or reduce the risks of the hazards to a reasonable level, the first aid/medical services and measures that shall be activated in event of an emergency. For other hazards identified during the performance of the contract the Department may also request that safety plans may be provided;
(3) All safety plans are to be reviewed by the Department before work proceeds. The Department reserves the right to review documents and monitor the Contractor’s compliance to the safety plan. Review of the safety plan and monitoring for compliance does not relieve the contractor of its responsibilities as defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations of those assigned by the contract.
[Isn’t that peculiar? When Ernst requested that Alberta Environment provide its sampling and safety protocol for testing her extremely dangerous and explosive contaminated tap water, the regulator refused.]
Pink underline: “Time is of the essence.”
Nearly 11 years later, approximately 40-50,000 visitors annually and most members in the community still breath and ingest Rosebud’s dangerously contaminated water.]
[Refer also to:
Alberta releases first ‘Sunshine list’ of government salaries by CBC News, January 31, 2014
Peter Watson, the deputy minister of the executive council, earned $342,630 in 2013 — the seventh highest base salary in 2013. He also earned $107,455 in non-cash benefits. [Pays exceptionally well to be a crooked public servant]
June 14, 2014: Synergy and blanket approval to give industry free-for all fracking in Alberta! Watch out Fox Creek and the rest of Canada, Synergy is brainwashing controlled by industry, incredibly evil and works well Note especially the cross reference report by the National Energy Board in 2004, where they report industry begged for blanket approval for unconventional fracing of oil and gas. ]