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Pembina Applauds, Fossils Claim ‘Disrespect’ as House Passes Amended Impact Assessment Act

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The Pembina Institute applauded a step forward and the fossil lobby accused a senior federal cabinet minister of being “disrespectful” as the amended Bill C-69, the proposed federal Impact Assessment Act, passed the House of Commons in a party-line vote [1] Thursday evening with its essential features largely intact.

Fossils had mounted a massive, sustained attack [2] on the legislation, introduced after extensive consultation to reverse the former Harper government’s massive deregulation of energy and resource projects. The bill spent about a year [3] before a Senate committee, raising concern about “unprecedented” interference [4] by unelected political partisans against a measure that would actually deliver [5] more timely, credible project decisions. Last week, the government announced [6] it would reject most of the amendments put forward by Conservative senators—nearly four dozen of which had been wordsmithed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). That notice set the stage for Thursday night’s vote.

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“The House of Commons voted to preserve the integrity of a foundational piece of environmental legislation,” Pembina Senior Analyst Nichole Dusyk said [8] in a release. “In doing so, the government is one step closer to fulfilling an election mandate to restore public trust in major project assessments. Canada’s current system for reviewing new industrial projects is not working for anyone. We know that getting projects built requires thorough and credible review processes. While Bill C-69 could be stronger, it will nevertheless benefit all Canadians, including industry, by making project reviews more robust, transparent, and fair.”

Dusyk applauded the Commons for “refusing to accept Senate amendments that would have gutted the requirement to consider climate change when reviewing major projects. It is no longer acceptable to punt climate action to another policy or jurisdiction. Protecting Canadians requires fully integrating climate considerations in all planning and decision-making. Going forward, the federal government needs to ensure that the implementation of Bill C-69 is fully consistent with the seriousness of the climate crisis.”

CAPP CEO Tim McMillan had a decidedly different view after Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna accepted nearly 100 Senate amendments to Bill C-69, but only three of the 43 that CAPP had so painstakingly drafted for its allies in Senate. “They want us to copy and paste recommendations written by oil lobbyists that would block court challenges, that would make it easier for future governments to ignore the views of Indigenous peoples,” McKenna said.

Such a “disrespectful” attitude, McMillan complained.

“I’m very troubled with some of Minister McKenna’s comments,” he told [9] reporters at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary. “She continues to profile our industry as if we aren’t responsible. It’s disrespectful and it’s not true.”

[McMillan surely couldn’t have been referring to the 2,800 years [10] an Alberta regulator expects it to take to clean up the toxic mess his very responsible industry has left behind, the C$260 billion [11] for which Alberta taxpayers may be on the hook to get the job done, or the “growing collaboration [12]” his members are actively plotting to replace one elected government with another one that is more to their liking. No, that would just be disrespectful.—Ed.]

McMillan said CAPP considered all 43 of its hand-crafted amendments “essential”, and some of his members took up the theme.

“This wasn’t some Christmas wish list of our industry,” said Cenovus Energy CEO Alex Pourbaix. “This was taking a bill that was really, really damaging to our industry and getting it to a place where, although it was still a real problem, it was something we felt we could live with.”

Suncor Energy CEO Mark Little said the bill “jeopardizes future development and does not restore investor confidence in our industry and country.”

On Wednesday, McKenna said [13] the government had accepted amendments that would “depoliticize” the bill, and Alberta independent senator Paula Simons said the process had worked well in the end.

“It was extraordinarily rare for any government, Liberal or Conservative, to accept any amendments from the Senate,” she said. “I don’t love it as it is,” but ” if we actually want to get projects done, whether it’s energy projects or other infrastructure projects, it’s better to get this bill passed. Give people some certainty and then…it can be amended down the road.”

The Senate also voted last week to introduce a “compromise” amendment to Bill C-48—the federal government’s proposed northern British Columbia tanker ban, and the other major legislation that fossil lobbyists and Conservative senators had set out to eviscerate. The new amendments by Independent senators Murray Sinclair and André Pratte would “provide a small window of hope for a future pipeline project in the region with a legislated ban in force,” iPolitics reports [14], mandating regional assessments to get at any negative impacts of the ban and requiring a parliamentary review of the legislation five years later.Simons, whose earlier vote defeated [15] C-48 before the Senate Transport Committee, was also planning an amendment to open a pipeline and tanker corridor to respect the land rights and ocean access of the Nisga’a First Nation. “Transport Minister Marc Garneau has said the government will not accept a corridor through the area, expressing concerns that oil spilled in an exempted zone could spread and be difficult to clean up,” iPolitics states.