Sorenson: Discussing the proposal of the Canada Energy Regulator

Sorenson: Discussing the proposal of the Canada Energy Regulator

The proposed Canada Energy Regulator is before the Canadian Senate

Kevin Sorenson

MP Battle River-Crowfoot

The House of Commons recessed on Dec. 14th for an extended Christmas break ending on Jan. 28th. Parliament will sit for 14 weeks in total during the winter and spring sessions before ending on June 21st. The breaks provide Members of Parliament a good opportunity to attend local events, host meetings and meet with individual constituents to resolve issues of a federal nature.

The six weeks I spent in Battle River-Crowfoot for the latter part of December and most of January gave me ample time to travel throughout the riding. Some of the highlights of that time were my well-attended Christmas open house at our Camrose office, the Canada Games Torch Relay which went through Drumheller and Stettler, and providing welcome remarks to the participants and spectators of the 2019 Jiffy Lube Alberta Scottie’s Tournament of Hearts. I also had the privilege of meeting with a number of constituents either in the Constituency office or at a convenient location for them in this vast riding.

During those meetings, as well as when I was speaking with individuals at community events, questions and concerns were raised about a number of different issues. One of the most prevalent issues was Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, which is currently before the Senate.

This piece of legislation proposes to remove the approval for pipelines and nuclear facilities from two expert regulators, the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The NEB will be replaced by the Canadian Energy Regulator and a new Impact Assessment Agency that reports to the Minister of the Environment, who will be responsible for pipeline approvals. The imposition of this new Agency and the new environmental assessment measures on Canada’s resource sector is garnering strong opposition.

The new timelines and specific steps that companies and governments will have to take for new energy projects to go ahead is good reason for concern. Further delays will discourage investment in pipelines while the added layers of bureaucracy will result in higher costs.

In 2012, our Conservative Government brought in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, after listening very closely to the oil/gas/pipeline industry as well as environmentalists. It was very apparent the industry viewed the NEB as a respected world-class regulator. They have vast expertise in all aspects of pipeline construction and operation from the technical specifications of pipes, valves and monitoring equipment to inspections, environmental impacts and the investigation of incidents. These decades of experience will not be easily transferable, nor will their focus on public safety which encompasses more than just the environmental implications.

In a recent Hill Times article, Colleen Collins, vice-president and Marla Orenstein, director of the Natural Resources Centre at the Canada West Foundation wrote: “Public Safety should not be given a back-seat role to what can be politically influenced decision-making on environmental risk. In fact, many (ourselves included) recommended reducing the role of political decision-making in determining major energy project go/no go decisions. The risk that matters first and foremost is the risk to public safety, which itself has implications for the environment, the economy, human health, Indigenous rights and title, and even climate change.”

While Conservative MPs voted against Bill C-69, as our preference is for the legislation to be completely scrapped, we would have settled for the government removing their political powers and the tough, fair and clear regulations continued to be enforced by the NEB. Hopefully, the Senate will make those amendments before our oil industry is completely decimated.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns, you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4608 or e-mail Kevin.Sorenson@parl.gc.ca.

MP Kevin Sorenson