By September 5, 2017 Read More →

Podcast: Former pipeline VP Dennis McConaghy says Trudeau botching energy regulation reform


Jim Carr, Canadian minister of natural resources responsible for National Energy Board. Photo:

Link to Markham On Energy podcast at the bottom of story

Dennis McConaghy is a former Canadian oil and gas executive, a veteran of the Alberta oil patch, and a convert to the “progressive view” of the energy industry. By progressive, I mean that he accepts climate science, understands that the global consensus around climate change could make Canadian oil noncompetitive, and publicly supports carbon pricing (he even wrote a book about it). While he may embrace change, McConaghy isn’t crazy about Justin Trudeau’s plans to transform the National Energy Board and the ways in which pipelines are assessed in Canada.

Dennis McConaghy, author of “Dysfunction — Canada after Keystone XL”

In fact, he and another retired executive, Hal Kvisle (former CEO of TransCanada, Talisman Energy, Fletcher Challenge) wrote a letter dated Aug. 24 to Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr expressing their dismay at a discussion paper released by Carr’s department setting out how the Trudeau government thinks the National Energy Board should be “modernized.”

McConaghy and Kvisle had a number of complaints, but the chief one was that Carr’s department had ignored a recommendation by the expert panel on NEB modernization – which the minister had himself appointed – to create a two track process for reviewing pipeline project proposals.

The first track would last for a year and incorporate all the consultation, policy debate, politics relevant to the project. Everything including the kitchen sink. Then, cabinet would decide if the project was in the “national interest.”

If the answer was deemed to be in the national interest, then a two-year technical review – the kind of assessment at which the NEB has always excelled – would follow.

I had argued for this approach in a column last year. McConaghy and Kvisle lobbied hard for it in their presentation to the expert panel.

Two tracks would incorporate the concerns and objections of project opponents, but still shorten the process and give industry some assurance that spending hundreds of millions on an application wouldn’t be wasted by a “no” decision based upon politics rather than technical merits.

For some reason, the two track strategy was ignored in the discussion paper. The idea appears to be dead.

That’s unfortunate because it was the most sensible recommendation in the expert panel report.

That’s the background for the very first Markham On Energy podcast. Enjoy.

Dennis McConaghy is a Canadian energy executive with nearly forty years of industry experience in infrastructure development. He has engaged in the evolution of Canadian energy and climate policy over thirty years, from the National Energy Program of 1980 to the Paris Climate Conference of 2015. As one of the senior executives of TransCanada Pipelines, he was directly involved in conceiving and executing the Keystone XL pipeline project.

McConaghy is the author of Dysfunction — Canada after Keystone XL. You can read my interview with him about his book here.


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