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Review of the reviewer: the NEB’s makeup

On Friday, the National Energy Board announced that a petroleum executive based out of Calgary would be the latest member to join the “independent federal regulatory agency’s” board.

Steven Kelly wil, according to the release, bring over three decades of energy industry experience to the role he’s assuming this October, most recently as the vice-president of energy consulting firm IHS Global Canada Ltd. According to the National Observerthe board’s latest appointee authored and submitted the report currently sitting before the NEB regarding Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline project.

The NEB regulates the construction and operation of pipelines and power lines, as well as imports of natural gas, and exports of crude oil and other energy products. Eleven members currently sit at the helm of what is rapidly becoming one of Canada’s most influential, topical – and perhaps most controversial – boards.

Of the 11 members (including the chair, vice-chair, and members both permanent and temporary), all either come from companies directly involved in the oil and gas industry, or from the bodies that govern them (i.e. government). 

This information is publicly available on the NEB’s website, along with full bios of all members. In summary, here’s a quick look at the 11 people reviewing applications that currently include the Trans Mountain expansion project, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and the Energy East Project.

Chair Peter Watson was Alberta’s Resource Person of the Year in 2011, and has held a variety of portfolios in government related to energy and the environment. Vice-chair Lyne Mercier worked at Gaz Métro for close to 30 years, where, as director, she was responsible for the strategic policy of natural gas supply.

Members Roland George has worked in the private energy sector for over three decades, including as senior principal with the international energy consulting firm Purvin & Gertz; Philip Davies held a senior management position with SaskPower; Shane Parrish managed business development for Canadian Petroleum Engineering Inc. and has worked in a consultancy capacity regarding indigenous business development and petroleum and mining for 18 years; Ron Wallace held senior management positions at Nunavut Resources Corporation and what is now AMEC Americas Ltd., where he was involved in major oil and gas operations throughout the former Soviet Union and Russia.

Temporary members David Hamilton and Alison Scott have extensive political backgrounds in the Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia, respectively. James Ballem started an energy consulting business, served as PEI’s Minister of Environment and Energy (an interesting coupling) and was the first chair of the PEI Milk Marketing Board. Mike Richmond was a senior energy policy advisor with the Ontario provincial government, and Jacques Gauthier was most recently president and CEO of LVM Inc., one of the largest environmental engineering consulting groups in Canada.

Between them, there have been portfolios held that relate to sustainability, and environmental and safety management. There is a PhD in Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Toxicology, as well as engineering, law and business grads. 

But the board is really a cross-section of parties actively invested in oil and gas, be it the companies that extract or move it, or the governments that enjoy taxes from what is a legal industry. There are no environmentalists at the strategic regulatory level; no representatives from academia with backgrounds dedicated to research and scholarship. And while there is a roster of somewhat varied experience at the NEB, there is no representation from anyone actively invested in rejecting the projects: only those whose backgrounds suggest an interest in moving them through the approval pipeline.

The NEB’s mandate is to regulate. Should that not mean involving a greater variety of views at the regulatory level?

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