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    How is a proposed pipeline approved or rejected?


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    Pipelines are front and centre in the news, with several projects underway or proposed across Canada. These projects are often polarizing, and must follow a rigorous approval process.

    Before construction can begin on an interprovincial or international project, Canada’s federal regulatory body, the National Energy Board, must approve the pipeline proposal...

    Before construction can begin on an interprovincial or international project, Canada’s federal regulatory body, the National Energy Board, must approve the pipeline proposal.

    Application process

    If a proposed pipeline doesn’t extend beyond provincial boundaries, each province or territory has to approve the pipeline based on its own regulations. 

    However, for pipelines that extend over borders, the company proposing it must submit an application to the National Energy Board setting out information on the proposed project, including its purpose, engineering design, environmental and socio-economic assessments, and land information.

    Public hearing

    If the proposed pipeline is over 40 kilometres long, the Board must hold a public hearing to decide whether to approve the project or not. At the hearing, the Board gathers information to determine if the project is in the public interest, specifically whether the good in creating the pipeline outweighs potential negative aspects.

    People who want to participate in the hearing must complete an application form setting out how they would be directly affected by the pipeline or what relevant expertise they have.

    Environmental assessment

    The Board also completes an environmental assessment of a proposed project, looking at its potential environmental impacts. Many factors are considered, including the physical environment, soil, wetlands, water quality and quantity, wildlife, any species at risk, heritage resources, traditional land and resource use, and human health. The Board often imposes conditions on projects to ensure environmental protection measures are carried out. 

    Route considerations 

    If the Board approves the pipeline, it must then consider the route. Owners of land that would be crossed or affected by the proposed pipeline give their concerns to the Board. If there are legitimate objections, the Board must conduct a detailed route hearing to decide the best possible route for the pipeline. 

    The Government of Canada also has a legal obligation to consult Indigenous groups whose rights may be adversely affected by any proposed project that requires a federal decision.

    If there are no objections, the Board may approve all or part of the route.



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