A former chair of the National Energy Board lauded a panel's recommendations to overhaul Canada's energy regulator, saying it will bring clarity and won’t drag out the pipeline review process.
Gaetan Caron, former NEB chair and fellow at the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy told BNN he hopes Ottawa adopts changes to the NEB suggested by a five-member panel’s report released Monday.
The report recommends, among other things, the regulator to be split into two separate bodies and extending the review timeline for major pipeline projects from 15 months to three years.
Caron said the changes will reduce uncertainty and financial risk for energy companies.
"I'd say it's a process of roughly the same length of time but without the uncertainty of, after spending sometimes nearly a billion dollars on project development cost, the answer [being] ‘no,’” Caron said.
The report’s suggestions garnered detractors quickly after they were announced. Alberta PC Leader Jason Kenney called them “absurd,” saying they will lengthen the pipeline review process.
“Only the ideological opponents of resource development think pipeline permitting should go slower,” Kenney tweeted Monday.
The proposed review structure would first give Ottawa up to a year to determine whether a project is in the national interest after which the two new bodies replacing the NEB, the Canadian Energy Transmission Commission and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, would do a two-year technical and environmental review. The project then wouldn’t have to go back to cabinet for approval.
Caron said he expected the report to advise major changes to the reviewing process. He said the current regulatory framework had become tangled in political discussions that involve bigger issues like climate change and First Nations reconciliation.
"All of that combined into one bundle as such that NEB hearings had become the wrong place for the right debate on those bigger questions," Caron said.
He said he hopes the report will help bring an end to the debate on how Canada reviews energy projects.
“What we've done so far is fuzzing about the process and I hope these reports will bring closure to that so that we can move on to the content of where this nation is going in terms of energy and the environment,” Caron said.