04/19/2012 04:33 EDT | Updated 06/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Cabinet To Get Final Say On Pipeline Projects


The National Energy Board (NEB) will have to submit all future decisions on major pipeline projects to the federal cabinet for approval, according to a little-noticed change made in the government's economic action plan.

Currently, the NEB only has to submit projects it approves to cabinet. With this proposed change, the NEB will have to submit projects it doesn't approve to cabinet as well.

"The changes will ensure that both positive and negative NEB recommendations are presented to elected officials for information. The cabinet can request a more in-depth review by NEB and can also decide to go forward for approval," a source within the natural resources minister's office wrote to the CBC. The NEB answers to the minister.

On Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver revealed more details on the government's streamlining of the regulatory approval process for major resource development projects.

Although it never came up in the minister's news conference, the change was found on the government's economic action plan website, which explained that the federal government wants to "establish clearer accountability for decisions on major pipeline projects in the national interest by giving government authority to make the “go/no go” decisions, based on the recommendations of the National Energy Board."

The federal government says this will not change the responsibilities of the NEB.

But this proposed change means that even if the NEB decides against approving a major pipeline project, cabinet can force it to reconsider.

"This will inform the decisions of the government," the source said.

Ottawa felt the change was necessary in the interests of job creation and economic growth.

Asked why the change was only on the government's website and not in last month's 498-page economic action plan budget document, the source explained last month's document was a broad outline of the government's plans. Tuesday's announcement just added further details.