Cullen says interim pipelines rules are rushed, lacking detail

Good answer, but show your work. That is MP Nathan Cullen’s take on the new climate-change and consultation tests for pipeline projects.

Good answer, but show your work.

That is local MP Nathan Cullen’s take on the Liberal government’s new climate-change and consultation tests for pipeline projects.

“It was rushed,” says Cullen, who is the NDP environment critic as well as the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

Billed as temporary steps to help restore public trust in pipeline reviews, the new rules will apply to existing proposals, such as Kinder Morgan’s bid to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

The National Energy Board is expected to decide whether or not to recommend that project in May, and the new rules will take effect after the NEB reports.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said a full review of federal environmental regulations is coming, but will take years to do.

While he welcomes the new temporary steps, Cullen said they leave many questions unanswered.

“What the government has said is that they’re going to include greenhouse gases in their consideration, but they don’t tell us how much,” he said.

“Is it one per cent of a factor, is it 50 per cent? Is there a limit that a pipeline can emit?”

The new climate-change test requires companies to estimate the ‘upstream’ and direct emissions of any new pipelines, but not the ‘downstream’ emissions caused when end-users burn the fuel.

Cullen said unless the government sets a public threshold for  emissions, cabinet ministers can look at those estimates in private and decide whether or not a project passes based largely on subjective feelings.

It is important to fully account for greenhouse gas emissions, Cullen added, especially after Canada joined calls to limit global warming to 1.5 C at the Paris climate summit in December.

“Funding 100 solar panels is quickly wiped out if you approve a raw bitumen pipeline through British Columbia,” he said.

“There should be no more free dumping.”

After speaking with First Nations leaders, Cullen said many were surprised by the Liberals’ temporary rules, which he said was ironic given they also include a call for a ministerial assistant to consult with First Nations along proposed pipeline routes.

That is another good idea, said Cullen, but again, it depends how it is carried out.

Cullen mentioned that in 2013, former federal negotiator Doug Eyford delivered a report to the Harper government on improving consultations with First Nations regarding west coast energy projects.

“He went around, consulted, came back with some very good recommendations, met with me a few times,” said Cullen.

“And then Mr. Harper ignored everything he said.”

Cullen said the issue remains unresolved under the Liberals.

“How do we come to a ‘no’ or a ‘yes,’ and what role do First Nations have in that process?” he asked.

“That will be a Gordian knot for this government to untie.”