Energy assessment bill conflicts with purchase of pipeline, Alberta premier says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says it makes no sense for Ottawa to have spent $4.5 billion to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline while it is pushing legislation she says will prevent most future energy projects from being built. 

Notley was in Ottawa Thursday morning giving a Senate committee her take on Bill C-69 — proposed federal legislation that would change the way major energy projects are approved and assessed for environmental and economic impacts.

Notley told senators the bill needs major amendments, including setting harder limits on the time it can take to do a review, and ensuring the reviews take into consideration the number of jobs a project will produce.

She also wants most new Alberta energy projects exempted from the bill because of existing provincial review processes and her government’s climate change policies.

Notley said the review system the bill replaces is no better. The former Conservative government’s Environmental Assessment Act was misguided, broken and damaging to the economy, Notley told senators.

She described it as a “no pipeline” policy.

Notley urged senators to take her concerns under consideration. She said Ottawa was at risk of replacing “one broken system with another broken system.”

The Senate is being heavily lobbied on Bill C-69, with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers saying more than 40,000 letters have been sent to individual senators asking them to amend the bill.

The Liberal government introduced C-69 earlier this year, touting the Impact Assessment Act as a way to streamline the approvals process for natural resources projects while bolstering consultation efforts with Indigenous communities affected by extractive industries.

The act would replace a web of competing regulatory bodies with a new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, a single entity that would be empowered to carry out a review of all major projects in this country — assessing not just environmental factors but also health, social and economic impacts, and effects on Indigenous people, over the long term.

The bill sets out defined timelines for the Impact Assessment Agency’s review of these projects. The bill also would give the minister of the environment or cabinet the final call on whether a project should get a green light.

That decision, which would weigh the public interest in the project against its potential for adverse effects, would have to be made 30 days after an assessment is delivered to the minister. The government has said this corrects the current lack of specific timelines and deadlines for project decisions by the federal government.