• Carmen Marie Fabio

National Energy Board meets behind closed-doors with Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC


Jean-Denis Charlebois (left) Director of the newly opened National Energy Board’s Montreal office greets Terrasse-Vaudreuil Municipal Councillor Julien Leclerc to the invitation-only meeting, closed to the media and the public, held April 20 at the St. Lazare community centre, as MRC-VS Communications Director Simon Richard (right) looks on.

The National Energy Board’s invitation-only meeting April 20 with the elected officials of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) focused on the procedural role of the NEB in relation to pipeline companies and their regional operations and reportedly sidestepped questions concerning the requested hydrostatic testing for the 40-year-old Enbridge pipeline in preparation of its 9B flow reversal plan.

Despite the board touting the meeting the following day on its website with the headline, ‘Ongoing public participation in Vaudreuil-Dorion,’ it was quickly changed to read ‘Board dialogue with the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges’ dropping the word ‘public’ from its communiqué.

“I’ve already expressed my complete disappointment to the MRC, and had them express it to the NEB, that a closed-door meeting like this does not foster mutual trust and respect,” said St. Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo on the NEB’s decision to exclude the media and public from attending the two-hour session held at the St. Lazare community centre.

“The simple justification (for excluding the media) is that we wanted to have a focused discussion between the elected officials and the National Energy Board,” said Jean-Denis Charlebois, Director of the newly opened NEB Montreal office before the start of the meeting. “That’s the only intent.” Charlebois said the agenda was to include presenting the mandate of the NEB, namely to regulate the pipelines in the Canadian public interest. Agreeing the mandate’s description was very broad in scope, Charlebois added, “Our two main priorities are safety and environmental protection ... we regulate the pipeline throughout its whole life-cycle.”

The description reportedly includes public hearings and making recommendations on whether or not pipelines should be built, taking into consideration the opinions of inspectors, environmental engineers, and Aboriginal rights specialists. “We monitor pipelines throughout the years of operations and are also there when the pipeline is not in use anymore and the pipeline company needs to abandon its facilities.”

When questioned on the resolutions being passed by area towns demanding hydrostatic testing of the 9B pipeline be carried prior to the flow reversal project, Charlebois declined to comment, saying the matter is before the NEB. “The intent of this meeting is not to talk about Enbridge 9B or Energy East, only to discuss our mandate as a whole in our approach to pipeline regulation.” Charlebois said the NEB will have the final say in whether or not the Enbridge project, which he said is currently in compliance phase, is given the go-ahead to begin operations and, if so, stated there is no projected timeline on when the final decision will be made. His comments are at odds with Vaudreuil-Soulanges NDP Member of Parliament Jamie Nicholls who contradicted the compliance phase status of the 9B project and said Federal Cabinet members will make the final decision on whether the project proceeds as planned.

Grimaudo confirmed the question of hydrostatic testing was brought up to both Charlebois and NEB member Jacques Gauthier. “The answer was pretty much the same one we’ve gotten in the past,” said Grimaudo. “They said, ‘Our experts at the NEB tell us hydrostatic tests are not necessarily the best tests to determine the integrity of this pipeline’ and ‘We are committed to making sure the best tests are done.’”

In a document obtained by Your Local Journal, a report issued by the NEB last year in response to Enbridge’s application for the Line 9B reversal project states, in part, “The Board notes the recommendation of Équiterre, based on the Accufacts Report, and of other Participants to require Enbridge to conduct hydrotesting of Line 9 prior to bringing the Project into service. However, the Board acknowledges Enbridge’s statement that there may be potential detrimental effects of hydrotesting the existing pipeline, including the potential to induce pressure reversal and cracks, or to grow cracks that do not fail during the test but may continue to grow in-service after and potentially as a result of hydrotesting.”

While the NEB is not ordering the testing, the report goes on to say it may revisit the issue of requiring hydrotesting prior to granting Leave To Open (LTO). “The commitment that was made tonight was that there will be public meetings held in the near future,” said Grimaudo of the NEB’s promise to allow citizens and journalists to attend future meetings and ask questions, though they declined to name an exact date.

In a statement issued to Your Local Journal following the meeting, Vaudreuil-Soulanges Prefect Jean Lalonde said, “Our meeting with the NEB is the first step in our ongoing discussion. The mayors, councillors, and directors general have asked significant questions and we are now waiting for specific technical responses. I am also pleased to learn that the NEB is considering meeting with area residents to answer their questions.”