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CALGARY — An environmental group is accusing the National Energy Board of rushing the process for the Energy East pipeline by gathering oral traditional evidence from aboriginal bands before it has received a complete application.

Adam Scott of Environmental Defence took the NEB to task in a letter to the regulator this week, asking why it couldn’t wait a few months for TransCanada —the Calgary-based firm proposing the $12-billion, cross-Canada oil pipeline —  to finish its work.

“The board continues to act and press forward a process on a project application which is not complete. The responsibility to file a complete project application lies with TransCanada,” he wrote in the Wednesday missive.

“The NEB should not rush ahead with an incomplete application to advantage a proponent that is unable to meet basic process criteria. Should any potential intervenors file evidence to the board late, I am not confident the board would grant them similar flexibility.”

In an interview Thursday, Scott called the process “sloppy” and confusing for many who want to take part in the process.

“I want a clear answer on why they’re rushing ahead. What is the need from the NEB’s perspective to get ahead on this?”

He added TransCanada benefits from a “rushed process” because “they’re very keen to get this up and running.”

TransCanada (TSX:TRP) filed an application for Energy East just under a year ago, but the filing needs to be amended because its planned export terminal in Cacouna, Que., is being scrapped.

That work is expected to completed by year end. The NEB would then have to deem the application complete before issuing a formal hearing order.

NEB spokeswoman Katherine Murphy says the oral traditional evidence hearings — which may include testimony on sacred and ceremonial sites, for example — are just one way aboriginal groups can have their say on the project.  Providing oral traditional evidence now or later won’t prevent groups from taking part in other aspects of the review process, she added.  

Sessions are scheduled in November and December at locations between Alberta and northwestern Ontario — areas that are not expected to be affected to any changes TransCanada may make to its application. There will be more sessions in 2016.

“At this point, it’s really about early, continued engagement with aboriginal peoples to understand their perspectives,” said Murphy.

The parts to the application that could be changed in light of the change in plans at Cacouna would be relatively small in relation to the entire 70-binder document that was filed in October 2014.

Energy East spokesman Tim Duboyce said the company is doing what’s required under the NEB process, in addition to extensive aboriginal engagement of its own.

“We have already held more than 1,700 meetings with more than 180 aboriginal communities since the launch of the Energy East Pipeline project in 2013. To date we have more than 30 capacity engagement funding agreements in place, to help communities assess the potential impacts of the project in an independent manner which suits their individual needs and requirements.”

 

Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter

 

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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