The Obama Administration’s recent decision to deny TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline is monumental. Alongside the rousing display of public environmental activism sparked by the proposed pipeline, the US government finally showed its environmental assessment process has a backbone. And given this timely announcement, which coincides with the Enbridge Joint Panel Review of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, it might be cause for some optimism. That is, it would be if the Enbridge hearing wasn’t built to fail.
But the hearings are built to fail. The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal body tasked with overseeing the Enbridge hearing, issued a general directive one year ago designed to exclude input from prominent environmental groups critical of the astonishingly rapid expansion of the tar sands – an expansion that only stands to increase with the proposed pipeline.
According to the NEB, information regarding the cumulative environmental impacts of the tar sands – including climate change impacts – is irrelevant to the hearing, which is intended to consider information regarding the pipeline alone.
The NEB’s muzzle tactics affected groups like the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Living Oceans Society and Forest Ethics, all prominent organizations critical of the environmental threats posed by the tar sands. Facing the board’s enforced censorship, these groups teamed up with EcoJustice to appeal the directive.