06 Jun What does the B.C. government’s rejection of the Northern Gateway Project mean?
What does the B.C. government’s rejection of the Northern Gateway Project mean?
In recent days, there has been extensive media coverage on the rejection of the Northern Gateway Project by the B.C. government. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the Northern Gateway Project will not proceed?
Let’s step back and take a look at the ongoing process considering the Northern Gateway Project (the “Project”). We provided an explanation of the Joint Review Panel process in our April 2012 issue of Newsbrief. The Project hearing is being conducted by the National Energy Board (the “NEB”) and is a combination of several distinct processes. First, the NEB is considering an application under the National Energy Board Act for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Secondly, the NEB has been appointed as a Joint Review Panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the “CEAA”). Finally, the government is relying upon the consultation effort of the proponent and the Joint Review Panel to discharge its duty to consult with Aboriginal groups.
Since our original article in the decision-making power of the NEB has been changed with the passage of the federal omnibus budget bill in mid-2012. Prior to the passage of the federal omnibus budget bill, the NEB could either refuse to grant a certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity or, if the NEB determined that such a certificate ought to be granted, make a recommendation to the federal Cabinet for issuance of the certificate. After amendment by the federal omnibus budget bill, the NEB no longer has the power to refuse a certificate of public convenience and necessity. All final decisions, whether to refuse or grant a certificate, will be made by the federal Cabinet.
So…. what does the B.C. government’s rejection of the Northern Gateway Project mean? It means that the B.C. government has made a strong political statement on its position. It has raised concerns with respect to the potential for spills from the pipeline and tankers. As well, the B.C. government has raised concerns with respect to spill response planning by the project proponent. However, the B.C. government is not the decision-maker in this case.
The NEB, as a pipeline regulator and a Joint Review Panel under CEAA, will present its conclusions and recommendations to the federal Cabinet. Ultimately, the decision to allow or not allow the Northern Gateway Project rests with the federal Cabinet.
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