Evidence in front of the National Energy Board’s joint review panel on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline puts Enbridge officials on Parliament Hill in the offices of key departments.
“The amount of lobbying by Enbridge seems extremely high and their access to high-level officials unlimited,” Nikki Skuce, senior energy campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy, said.
During last Tuesday’s joint review panel hearing in Prince George, Tim Leadem, ForestEthics Advocacy counsel, asked Enbridge officials if the visits to Parliament Hill were to lobby the federal government to relax environmental protection laws.
“Trust can only be conveyed and public interest satisfied if we know that the proponent is not actually lobbying the federal government to change its commitments,” Leadem said during his cross-examination of Enbridge officials.
“Has Enbridge been lobbying the government with regard to the National Energy Board Act, the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Act to allow this project to proceed?”
Enbridge expert, Paul Anderson, said the visits were not to lobby the government but rather to seek clarification on the regulatory requirements contained within the federal government’s omnibus bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45.
Both bills include changes to the legislation governing environmental protection and the regulations surrounding environmental assessment procedures, changes, critics have argued that ensure projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline receive approval.
“Surely part of this is due to the successful lobbying efforts of Enbridge,” Skuce said.
In fact, Enbridge officials spent much time on Parliament Hill before Bill C-38 was tabled in March 2012.
In 2011, Enbridge officials made their way to Parliament Hill 16 times to meet with officials from the Prime Minister’s office, the Privy Council, Natural Resources Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as the Finance Department.
In the same year, Enbridge officials also made 25 visits to Members of Parliament and Senators.
These meetings, Skuce said, taint the perception of Enbridge’s oft-repeated commitment to safety and the environment.
The importance of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Enbridge was made clear by the fact that Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel personally met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Chief of Staff and cabinet ministers.
Leaving nothing to chance, Enbridge also had several firms lobbying the government, Skuce said.
“In terms of public perception, all of the changes to environmental laws and regulations and to the NEB itself, have only made the risks associated with Northern Gateway increase,” she said.
“While Enbridge’s oil spill record doesn’t exude confidence, now there are so few regulations and public servants to monitor and regulate them.
“Trust Enbridge with our wild salmon rivers, no thanks.”
The public lobbying registry is at: http://ocl-cal.gc.ca/eic/site/012.nsf/eng/home.