How did the value of your house and your future employment opportunities end up in the hands of owner/operators of buried steel tubes and a single federal regulator? Why does the fate of Canada's largest and most valuable resource industry --and the millions of Canadians who depend upon it--rest with commercial pipeline companies and the National Energy Board (NEB)?
What about all the other stakeholders? Why are the governments which own these resources on behalf of the people and all the elected politicians not more actively involved? What about the voters? Who's representing the consumers who need the product to survive in this large cold country and the Canadians whose jobs depend on oil and gas development? When will we hear from the companies that actually find and produce oil?
Welcome to Canadian pipeline paralysis 2016. Incredibly, three private pipeline companies--TransCanada Corp., Enbridge Inc. and Kinder Morgan Canada, guided by the vacillating and increasingly impossible mandate of the NEB--are now in charge of Canadian oil policy. Kinder Morgan isn't even Canadian. Give your head a shake.
These companies clearly drew the short straw when, in the pursuit of commercial self-interest, they ended up in expensive, high-profile and inconclusive public hearings debating aboriginal land claims and the future of planet Earth. Pipeliners are just plumbing companies which connect buyers and sellers for money. Who put them in charge? The logical people to weigh in on such matters of domestic and global importance--our elected politicians--are nowhere to be found. Unless of course, they object, at which point you can't keep them quiet.
The NEB's Energy East hearing in Montreal was shut down Aug. 29 for reasons of decorum and safety thanks to three highly motivated professional disrupters. Finally, more people are asking the question nobody wants to answer: How did the future of Canada's oil industry end up being decided at pipeline hearings?
People Love Pipelines
Because politicians love regulators, they hide behind them. Regulators are government institutions which study, analyze and adjudicate on major projects somebody believes are in the public interest. They need regulatory approval because they impact people, often called voters. Highways. Power lines. Pipelines. Railroads. Mass transit. All shared public works and utility infrastructure modern society cannot live without.
And people love pipelines. They just don't know it. Every residential and commercial building is supported by multiple pipelines carrying fresh water and natural gas in and sewage out. Pipeline conduits protect electricity, telephone and cable TV lines. Every community is riddled with pipelines. "Look before you dig." The 2016 oil pipeline stalemate is about the contents, not the tube.
The mandate of the NEB has not been materially different from the original Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). Faced with a pipeline application and approval process, the regulator was charged with seeking industry and public input then determining if the design was safe, the setbacks adequate, environmental protection considered, and finally if the project was in the national interest.
The historic bias has been toward economically advantageous because until recently resource development in Canada has never been regarded as anything else. It has worked well for decades. Canada didn't become the fifth-largest hydrocarbon jurisdiction (oil, gas, natural gas liquids)...