Big oil bossing big government around?

The new National Energy Board rules restricting public participation in oil pipeline project hearings were taken directly from an August 2012 oil industry report, ForestEthicsAdvocacy said today. The report, Who Writes the Rules? A Report on Oil Industry Influence, Government Laws and the Corrosion of Public Process, was the result of meetings between industry players and government officials over a three-year period.

 “An analysis of a report by the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, an industry-funded advocacy group, reveals that several of the energy group’s key recommendations were directly inserted into federal law—and bear a striking resemblance to language now in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and National Energy Board rules--in one case word for word,”

Clayton Ruby, Board Chair of ForestEthics Advocacy Association, said in a news release.

“The energy industry told the government what to do, and the government did it.  It's as simple as that.”

ForestEthics Advocacy pointed to examples where industry recommendations were reflected in the NEB rules. Recommendation C.2 in the report, A Canadian Energy Strategy Framework, states:

 “The federal government must develop regulations that restrict participation in federal EA [environmental assessment] reviews to those parties that are directly and adversely affected by the proposal in question. The only third parties that should be allowed to participate in these reviews are those parties that have the potential to be directly and adversely affected by the proposed project.”

 Using some notably identical phrasing, the National Energy Board rules state that:

 “If you wish to participate, you must demonstrate to the Board’s satisfaction that you are directly affected by the proposed project. The Board MAY consider whether the granting or refusing of a project application causes a direct effect on (your) interest including the likelihood and severity of harm you may be exposed to.”

 As a result of these changes, the government now requires anyone wishing to comment on an energy project to fill out a nine-page form with detailed personal information. These rule changes have drastically reduced the number of Canadians who are able to participate in hearings for the Line 9 reversal compared to those in the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.

According to the report, there were 11,111 participants in the Northern Gateway hearings compared to 172 for 9B.

 “Enbridge and the industry lobbied aggressively to get these rules put in place because they don't want Canadians getting in the way of their profits,” said Tzeporah Berman, who is representing FEAA in a lawsuit against the federal government, the National Energy Board and Enbridge Pipelines Inc.  

“The industry doesn't want to hear about messy topics like climate change, cancer rates and poisoned watersheds.  Phrases like 'directly and adversely affected' are just code for shutting down debate, canceling free speech, and putting people at risk to protect the bottom line.”

 Lobbying records show that between January 1, 2012 and November 30th, 2013, Enbridge met or communicated with federal officials 51 times to talk about energy issues including 'regulatory streamlining' and 'improved efficiencies in environmental assessment processes.'  Enbridge executives were repeatedly able to secure meetings with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

 In August, FEAA launched a lawsuit before the Federal Court of Canada to strike down provisions of the National Energy Board Act that unreasonably restrict public comment on project proposals.  The National Energy Board (NEB) regulates the oil, gas, and electricity industries and approves pipeline construction, coal and uranium mining, liquefied natural gas projects, and tar sands development in Canada.  Enbridge successfully applied to be added to the lawsuit because its economic interests were at stake.

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