Most industry experts laud recent efforts
by Ottawa and Edmonton to make energy
regulation more efficient. But will the
autonomy of the regulator be sacrificed
for the sake of expediency?
BY BRIAN BURTON
EFFORTS TO REFORM our energy regime started out, decades ago, as another frustrated corporate rant against
government interference and inefficiency.
More recently, though, as oil and gas regulatory reform has finally gathered momentum, lawyers say it may have
become a crusade of a different colour. Some observers say new regulatory legislation is driven more by government
fiat than the needs of industry — more by the policy of the day than any concern for the credibility of the process.
While the theory of energy regulation places a high degree of emphasis on regulatory independence as the primary
assurance of quality decision making, Calgary energy lawyers on both sides of the debate say new federal and provincial legislation have certainly not increased the autonomy of key agencies.
Speaking directly to the issue of independence, National Energy Board (NEB) president and CEO Gaétan Caron
told the World Forum on Energy Regulation, “NEB regulation is about specific projects — public policy is typically about much broader objectives at the societal level. Since the NEB is in the business of making project-specific
determinations, it naturally works in a different sphere than government policy,” he told the forum in Quebec City
on May 10, 2012.
It was the sort of statement that Caron – after a lifetime of service to the federal energy regulator, holding all its
major staff and board positions – would appear eminently qualified to make. But it came just eight days after Federal
Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver told the House of Commons that cabinet had other plans for the NEB.
“The federal cabinet will make the go/no-go decisions on all major pipeline projects …” Joe Oliver said in the
House on May 2, 2012. “The ultimate decision making should rest with elected members who are accountable to the
people, rather than with unelected officials.” The NEB would, henceforth, make recommendations to its political