NEB public consult a public insult

by Reimar Kroecher

Common Ground asked Reimar Kroecher to study the highly controversial documents and share his analysis with our readers. Kroecher holds Economics degrees from UBC and UCLA and he was an Economics instructor at Langara for over 30 years.

In December 2013, just before Christmas, the National Energy Board (NEB) declared the Northern Gateway pipelines to be in Canada’s public interest.  It accepted all of Enbridge’s claims of benefits and rejected the submissions of hundreds of citizens, public interest groups and first nations. The lesson to be learned from these hearings is that the NEB is unwilling or unable to conduct a set of unbiased hearings.

The NEB will be at it again – holding hearings to determine if the Kinder Morgan pipeline will be in Canada’s public interest. This time, the hearings will be even more biased.  To begin with, the panel rejected some 485 applicants because, in its opinion, they: a) “will not be directly affected” b) “do not have special expertise” c) “want to discuss global warming.” In addition, the panel downgraded some 1,200 applicants to “commenter” status.  Commenters are allowed to put in written submissions, but not allowed to ask questions or have face-to-face contact with the panel. Whether anybody ever reads these “comments” is anybody’s guess. Even the mighty US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has been reduced to commenter status!  Conveniently,  this allows the panel to avoid having to answer tough questions from EPA experts. Fewer than 20% of the applicants were granted “intervener” status. Only interveners are granted face-to-face contact with the panel and allowed to challenge the claims made by Kinder Morgan.

Knowing what occurred during the Gateway hearings, we should have no illusions about the final outcome of the Kinder Morgan hearings.  The results are predictable. NEB panels have never yet rejected a single pipeline application.  According to NEB, all pipelines are in the public interest. This panel has been given its mandate by its masters in Calgary and Ottawa. Opponents of pipelines are “enemies of Canada.” No matter how well prepared the interveners, no matter how compelling their arguments, no matter how many holes they can poke into Kinder Morgan’s claims, the panel will declare the pipeline in the public interest. In its cost benefit analysis, the panel will likely use the same biased procedure noted below:

Include the extra jobs created by the construction and operation of the pipeline as well as jobs created by tar sand expansion, but only show the cost of constructing the pipeline. In other words, upstream benefits will be counted, but upstream cost will not.

Accept all claims, facts and figures submitted by Kinder Morgan at face value and not subject them to independent peer review.

Accept the myth that, after a spill, effective clean-up is possible even though evidence shows that, at best, only 10% can be recovered.

Accept the myth that tarsands oil exported to China will replace dirty coal, when in reality it will be burned in addition to dirty coal.

Refuse to factor in the cost of additional global warming caused by the expansion of tarsands production.

Refuse to factor in currency appreciation and its consequences on economic activity in Canada.

Refuse to conduct independent studies on the feasibility of refining tarsands production in Canada.

Refuse to mandate that pipe and pumping stations be Canadian made.

Refuse to mandate that only Canadian labour be used.

Refuse to mandate even just 1% of total sales flowing through the pipeline be set aside in a special trust fund to be available for quick mitigation and compensation for accidents.

Refuse to be clear and honest in explaining to Canadians that these pipelines will bring about substantial increases in the price of gasoline and diesel in Western Canada.

The last point seems to have been almost completely overlooked by opponents, yet for a typical citizen it carries the most weight. Too preoccupied with earning a living and covering mortgage payments to get involved in environmental issues, they are totally opposed to any policies that drive up the price of gas or diesel. Big Oil has repeated again and again that access to Asian markets will mean 30 or 40% higher prices for tarsands oil. Big Oil has been silent on informing Canadians that refiners in western Canada will also have to pay these higher prices and substantial increases in oil-based fuels will be automatic.

Citizen groups should communicate the point that gasoline and diesel prices will rise domestically. We will all pay more when we fill up our cars, trucks, buses and boats. This point will resonate with our wallets in all of western Canada. The next Kinder Morgan NEB Harper government hearings will be yet another public PR circus with predictable outcomes for the oil interests, of the oil interests and “buy” the oil interests.

The Harper government’s heart is in the oil patch with its petro carbon family values, first and foremost, of tarsands, LNG, crude and pipelines.

For further information, visit,, and

Leave a comment