Stuck in a pipe? Possibilities for expanding Canadian energy project reviews

Authors: Carol Hunsberger*, University of Western Ontario
Topics: Energy, Political Geography, Canada
Keywords: Energy, pipelines, environmental governance, due process, procedural fairness, energy justice, Canada
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Energy projects in Canada, especially pipelines, are highly controversial. From public opposition campaigns to political wrangling between jurisdictions, recent events suggest a failure to productively negotiate between people with diverse priorities. Numerous legal challenges have focused on the duty to consult Indigenous people, as well as impacts on particular species. This paper examines recent examples of pipeline reviews and associated social, political and legal battles in Canada. Document analysis and interviews address the question: How do more-than-settler and more-than-human worlds fit in to the regulatory and legal systems that currently govern energy projects in Canada? And, drawing on energy justice and good process literature, what opportunities exist to expand engagement with deeper issues than these bodies currently consider? Findings include that participants in project reviews consistently feel that an overly narrow scope precludes discussion on broader concerns such as climate change and cumulative encroachment on Indigenous lands. Expert panels agree that without coherent national policies or a forum to deliberate on broader issues, review bodies are doomed to hear arguments they cannot resolve. Relevant legislation continues to treat regional and strategic assessments – which look beyond the project level – as optional, while the courts are also constrained in their ability to consider historical grievances and the wider context surrounding particular cases. Given these challenges, the paper offers preliminary thoughts on the question: how can systemic, underlying issues be addressed before conflicts over particular projects escalate and end up in court?

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