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Serious concerns remain as Senate passes Bill C-69 into law

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Bill C-69 retains subjective criteria including ‘gender’ implications of energy projects

Last week, the federal government rejected many of the Senate‘s recommended amendments to Bill C-69. This move comes after months of study in the Senate and approximately 200 amendments to the legislation. Unfortunately, serious concerns remain for Canada’s energy sector as crucial amendments were rejected.

Bill C-69 will overhaul the entire assessment process of major energy projects by replacing the National Energy Board (NEB) with a new energy regulator and establishing an Impact Assessment Agency for new projects with additional review requirements. Under the original format of the bill and without major amendments, a large number of subjective criteria—including the social impact of energy investment and its “gender” implications—will be added to the review process. And despite good intentions to streamline the process, the bill will make the regulatory system more subjective and less certain.

To address some of the serious concerns with the bill, senators proposed sweeping amendments in an attempt to shorten timelines for the review process, account for investor confidence in environmental assessments, and limit the ability of politicians to make final decision on project reviews. However, in a disappointing turn of events, the federal government accepted only 62 out of 229 amendments proposed by the Senate, rejecting another 130 proposed changes. The federal government also made its own alteration to 37 proposed changes for a total of 99 approved amendments.

Specifically, the government rejected critical amendments that would make it harder to challenge a project approval in court and limit who can participate in review hearings, and amendments that were designed to prioritize economic impacts in the assessment process along with environmental protection. References to “providing certainty to investors and stakeholders and driving innovation” were also rejected.

Based on the federal government’s rejection of such amendments, serious concerns remain for Canada’s oil and gas sector. More specifically, various senators, academics and industry leaders have raised concerns about how the bill is likely to “slow approvals down” and increase competitiveness concerns. In response to Bill C-69 in its initial form, Hal Kvisle, former CEO of TransCanada Corp., called the bill a “devastating piece of legislation” adding that he doesn’t “think any competent pipeline company would submit an application if Bill C-69 comes into force.”

Unfortunately, the Senate passed Bill C-69 into law last night. Given that several important amendments to this bill is rejected by the federal government, serious concerns remain for Canada’s regulatory system in the coming years.

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