UBC academic says major projects could be revised by federal Liberals

The former Conservative government radically overhauled environmental legislation in 2012

Kamloops This Week

Criteria for assessing pipelines and other major projects will be revised by the federal Liberal government to include climate change, predicts a UBC academic.

Kevin Hanna, director of UBC Okanagan’s centre for environmental assessment research, spoke Thursday of last week at Thompson Rivers University on environmental changes that will come with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

One of the changes he predicts is to the makeup and regulations surrounding the National Energy Board, which he said is dominated by panelists who are close to the oil and gas industry. It also has a narrow mandate that doesn’t include the new government’s focus on climate change and greenhouse gases.

“The NEB has never considered climate change,” Hanna said. “The new government is really concerned about climate change. This is something that will come up in the new environmental process.”

On Thursday of last week, 100 groups issued a call for the new Liberal government to halt regulatory processes involving pipelines until regulations and laws are revised to fit the new Liberal vision. That could include analysis whether projects help or hinder targets on greenhouse gas reduction.

“I don’t know how easy it is to do that,” Hanna said, adding he is skeptical the NEB process can be altered at this late date to include climate change for review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

The former Conservative government radically overhauled environmental legislation in 2012. Hanna said over half the omnibus budget bill that ran 800 pages consisted of revised environmental regulations. The most significant was removing a set of triggers — output of a mine or length of a pipeline, for example — so that far fewer projects received oversight from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Changes also allowed provincial governments to conduct reviews and make final decisions alone in some instances.

(The environmental review for the proposed Ajax mine is being conducted under a harmonized federal-provincial comprehensive environmental assessment, which predates changes that weakened reviews).

 

Despite the Conservative government’s push to get pipeline projects through, Hanna said, ironically none were approved during its 10 years in power. He argues pipelines and other major projects will face less opposition if the environmental reviews are trusted by the public — something that requires more stringent standards.