On November 3rd, the Ministerial Panel for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project released its final report to the public.
This report represents the culmination of months of public hearings on the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion project and what Canadians felt was missed in the National Energy Board (NEB) review. Three key experts led the panel in collecting public input, organizing the report, and forming conclusions about how the Trans Mountain Expansion project could go ahead. The report is based on 44 public meetings attended by more than 2,400 Canadians, of whom 650 made direct presentations to the panel.
The report documents how changing social and economic conditions affect the proposed project. It highlights changing oil prices, climate change, First Nations rights, and social license as key factors in determining public sentiment about the project. Other issues raised by presenters, and documented in the report, include: marine impacts, effects of diluted bitumen, risks of oil transportation, and public confidence in regulatory processes. Indigenous issues was also a major theme of public input.
The report concludes with key questions for policymakers. These six high-level questions are discussed in-depth in the report, and they are:
- Can construction of a new Trans Mountain Pipeline be reconciled with Canada’s climate change commitments?
- In the absence of a comprehensive national energy strategy, how can policymakers effectively assess projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline?
- How might Cabinet square approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline with its commitment to reconciliation with First Nations and to the UNDRIP principles of “free, prior, and informed consent”?
- Given the changed economic and political circumstances, the perceived flaws in the NEB process, and also the criticism of the Ministerial Panel’s own review, how can Canada be confident in its assessment of the project’s economic rewards and risks?
- If approved, what route would best serve aquifer, municipal, aquatic, and marine safety?
- How does federal policy define the terms “social license” and “Canadian public interest” and their inter-relationships?
The report notes that climate change, in particular, was an issue raised at every public meeting.
Desmog Canada reports that environmental organizations are pleased with the outcome. “‘Surprisingly, I think it did do its job,’ says Patrick DeRochie, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence. ‘It’s kind of the icing on the cake of a fatally flawed Kinder Morgan review process. It shows the social, environmental and economic rationale for approving this pipeline simply doesn’t exist. The only viable option coming from this report is the rejection of Kinder Morgan by the federal government.'”
The report concludes:
“The issues raised by the Trans Mountain Pipeline proposal are among the most controversial in the country, perhaps in the world, today: the rights of Indigenous peoples, the future of fossil fuel development in the face of climate change, and the health of a marine environment already burdened by a century of cumulative effects. There are matters of public safety and environmental sustainability, overlaid against economic need in a province where a once-strong resource sector is currently under severe strain. We, as the Ministerial Panel, hope that we have done well by the many thousands of people who provided input in this process — in helping to craft a set of questions that may bring clarity in the decisions to come.”