In recent days, the once-obscure National Energy Board (NEB) has been all over the news.
The NEB, an arms-length board of government appointees tasked with reviewing proposed energy infrastructure projects, is of course no stranger to controversy. During the Harper years, it was the frequent target of pipeline resisters, who charge that the Board is an entirely captured regulator, firmly in the pocket of the major energy companies. Another common complaint levelled against the NEB is that it lacks the mandate to consider downstream environmental and climate change impacts of the projects it reviews.
Justin Trudeau came into office pledging new rules for the NEB, but as more details emerge about his plan, it’s become clear that these “new rules” aren’t going to apply to the major ongoing reviews of Energy East, Northern Gateway, TransMountain, and others.
In response to this, activists have been taking action to draw renewed attention to the massive shortcomings with both the composition of the NEB and the process it uses to review (and rubber-stamp) pipelines.
A group of cleverly disguised protesters served National Resources Minister Jim Carr with a “People’s Search Warrant” this past week, demanding to see the details of these new rules and to know exactly how and when they will be implemented.
Climate activists in Vancouver locked themselves to the door of the NEB’s local office, calling for a suspension of upcoming hearings into TransMountain until new rules can be put into place.
And a group of activists arrested after boarding a Kinder Morgan barge said that Trudeau is breaking his election promises by allowing the NEB hearings to proceed without modification.
There’s widespread sentiment that a new process is needed, and it’s vital that it take climate change impacts into consideration as well as diminish the influence of the energy industry over the hearings. But one factor which must also be incorporated into any reforms of the NEB, and one which is much less widely discussed, is the way the NEB treats First Nations.
In this article, first published last fall, I look at the bureaucratized racism inherent in the NEB’s approach to consultation with First Nations, and examine the question of whether the Board even has the legal ability, from a Constitutional point of view, to conduct these consultations to begin with.