Ombudsman investigating whether Energy East needs separate provincial environmental review
Green party Leader David Coon filed a complaint with Ombudsman Charles Murray’s office in June alleging Environment Minister Brian Kenny is giving the mega project a “free pass.”
The office has decided to act on the complaint.
An investigator has now been assigned to the file and is looking into why jurisdictions like Quebec are conducting their own environmental assessment while New Brunswick isn’t, according to the Greens.
The result could see Murray recommend to the Gallant government that the province complete its own study on Energy East.
Green party spokeswoman Shannon Carmont said the complaint was first heard by an intake officer where it was determined to have merit.
An investigator was then assigned.
That investigator is now seeking input from government departments and is reviewing legislation to determine responsibility.
Based on that research a recommendation is made to the department.
“Our investigator is midway through her research,” Carmont said in an email. “She is now looking at what Quebec is doing and why they felt the need to conduct a provincial environmental impact assessment.
“The department has deferred responsibility to the national EIA process, claiming redundancy, so she is looking at how our provincial process might differ from the federal.”
Kenny has maintained the provincial assessment isn’t necessary and that it has instead applied for intervener status to be part of the National Energy Board review of Energy East, stating the project falls under federal jurisdiction.
“There are also probably at least another 1,800 people throughout Canada who are interested in this project and who have applied,” Kenny said in the legislature earlier this year. “A process is in place, and we will follow that due process, as any other government would do throughout Canada.
“We have many people working on this project to make sure that all our environment, including our rivers, streams, and waterways, will be protected. We will not let anything happen to our environment under this process.”
He added: “This is my commitment to New Brunswickers. It is our government’s commitment to New Brunswickers.”
Coon maintained there needs to be an assessment by New Brunswick officials as the pipeline proposes to cross under roughly 280 rivers and streams across the province.
He contested the Brunswick Pipeline, built by Emera connecting the Canaport LNG terminal in Saint John to the existing Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline near St. Stephen, was a much smaller project yet was subjected to a review by both the National Energy Board and the provincial Department of Environment.
Ombudsman Charles Murray didn’t confirmed whether his office would investigate when reached via email on the matter shortly after Coon’s complaint was filed.
“We do our best to look into all complaints we receive,” he said. “We don’t in most cases confirm whether or not we are investigating any matter.”
Murray said the office begins by determining whether a matter is in its jurisdiction and if other avenues of appeal have been exhausted.
“We may then make inquiries to determine if we ‘smell smoke,” he said. “Then, based on the issues and resource considerations, and in conjunction with other files, we make determinations of what scope our investigation may take.”