Canada's federal energy regulator has granted a request to suspend its review of a major crude oil pipeline project that would transport oil from the Canadian prairies to Atlantic Canada.
The National Energy Board confirmed late on Friday that it was suspending its review of the Energy East and Eastern Mainline projects for 30 days in response to the request from the proponent, Calgary-based TransCanada.
"The Board is of the view that the requested suspension will have minimal consequences on potential participants in the hearing and on the Projects’ review process," wrote the Board's secretary, Sheri Young, in a Sept. 8, 2017 letter to TransCanada that was posted on the NEB website. "Therefore, the Board will not issue further decisions or take further process steps relating to the review of the Projects until 8 October 2017. Consequently, the Board will not respond to requests that are outstanding at this time, or any requests received within this 30-day suspension period."
TransCanada went public with its request to suspend the review on Thursday. The company also indicated that it was reviewing whether to proceed with the project due to "significant" challenges it would now face as a result of a more stringent review proposed by the NEB. The regulator had decided, for the first time in its history, that it would consider not only pollution caused by construction and operations of the pipeline, but also of greenhouse gas emissions related to the oil to be transported on Energy East.
The Energy East pipeline is the largest pipeline proposal in Canadian history, and if approved, would ship up to 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from producers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and North Dakota to refineries and marine ports in Quebec and New Brunswick. Eastern Mainline is a proposal to add 250 kilometres of new natural gas pipeline facilities and nine compression facilities to an existing natural gas system in southern Ontario.
But the company indicated on Thursday that it was hitting the brakes on Energy East due to the new guidelines proposed by the NEB.
"Should TransCanada decide not to proceed with the projects after a thorough review of the impact of the NEB's amendments, the carrying value of its investment in the projects as well as its ability to recover development costs incurred to date would be negatively impacted," the company said in its statement.
The changes in the review were implemented by a brand new NEB panel that started reviewing TransCanada's proposal in 2017. The new panel replaced three Board members who were forced to resign over conflict of interest allegations uncovered by National Observer in July and August 2016.
The NEB's chief executive, Peter Watson, has also recused himself from any decisions related to TransCanada after also admitting that he appeared to be biased.