What kind of message does it send?

The National Energy Board looks the other way again

Shelagh Lynch
Scotsburn, N.S.

June 21, 1999

For years, my neighbours and I have been fighting to protect a very fragile wetland ecosystem from destruction. Fragile, because this entire wetland is being held in place by one huge beaver dam. Should the beavers ever decide to leave, that one dam would very soon start to deteriorate, and so too would the wetland. The ecosystem which supports many species of wildlife and which is an integral part of our community landscape would be gone forever. Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline is now constructing its pipeline directly through the beaver habitat and destroying a substantial portion of their food supply.

During the period of "consultation" when the pipeline corridor was selected, M&NP did not identify the wetland on their maps. Residents of the area pointed out its existence to the company. However, M&NP still did not include it in their constraint mapping book when they applied for approval of the corridor. Input from the public was ignored. Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline gave false information to the National Energy Board in order to get approval of the proposed corridor. As it turned out, that was the only chance this wetland had to escape this major construction project through its midst. When the use of this section of corridor was later challenged at the Detailed Route Hearings because of its environmental sensitivity, the NEB panel said it had no jurisdiction to approve any other route outside of the already approved corridor in the context of a Detailed Route Hearing. M&NP could have, but wouldn't ask for a variation of the certificated corridor.

At the Detailed Route Hearings, in their written evidence, Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline identified this ten acre wetland as "potential wet areas". They said they were routing their pipeline away from it. Their evidence consisted of outdated aerial photography from which they estimated there was a 40 meter buffer zone between the Right of Way and the wetland. (In fact, during subsequent field investigations, it was determined that the wetland actually extended into the Right of Way with no buffer zone at all.) The NEB based its decision to approve M&NP's route through this section of corridor on the inaccurate evidence presented at the hearing.

Letters from local residents were sent to the National Energy Board. An Application for Review was submitted with accurate information prepared by environmental consultants refuting much of M&NP's evidence given at the hearing. The regional biologist said avoidance was preferred.

With the real facts now in hand, the National Energy Board looked the other way. They let their original decision stand. No mention was ever made of M&NP's dishonest tactics to secure their required approvals. We don't expect much from Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline. I'm sure it is standard practice for oil and gas companies to give false information to the regulators in order to get their required approvals. However, we feel very let down by the NEB. We blindly followed the rules and regulations step by step in voicing our objections. The NEB is there to represent the interests of the communities through which these pipelines pass. Their regulations are put in place to protect sensitive environments. What kind of message does it send to the oil and gas industry when they are allowed to present inaccurate information at hearings and get away with it? What kind of message does it send to the general public about the entire regulatory process? For us in West Branch, Nova Scotia the message is loud and clear. Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline is now cutting a huge swath through an environmentally sensitive area while a NEB inspector looks on to "represent our interests".

Shelagh Lynch

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