Of all the projects I’ve worked on, this one has been by far the most challenging. The level of public interest, particularly in the Lower Mainland, is very deep. It’s nice to see people so engaged in the NEB process.

leslie mathews_2

Meet Lesley Matthews, who leads the regulatory process for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Lesley is responsible for making sure the Project Application and all subsequent steps follow and meet the stringent requirements set out by the National Energy Board (NEB).

What is your background and how did it lead you to this Project?

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master’s of Environmental Design with a specialty in Environmental Sciences. As a consultant, early in my career, I worked for Foothills Pipelines (now part of Trans Canada) on the Alaska Highway Pipeline Project, which was very interesting. I travelled around Northern BC and the Yukon visiting Aboriginal communities.

I was employed at the NEB from 2003-2008, where I worked on a few smaller pipelines in Northern BC, as well as the first version of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, the Mackenzie Gas Project and the Land Matters Consultation Initiative.

I began on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in 2013 and leading the regulatory part of the Project through the NEB review process has been quite a journey so far. Of all the projects I’ve worked on, this one has been by far the most challenging. The level of public interest, particularly in the Lower Mainland, is very deep. It’s nice to see people so engaged in the NEB process.

How many people are on the Regulatory team?

There’s really no Regulatory team as such. The regulatory and, in particular, the NEB’s review process, is part of the entire Project team’s job, so almost everyone on the Trans Mountain team is involved in the regulatory process. I did entice one experienced person from within the Project to help me out for the next several months as we navigate the regulatory process. We do a lot of Project co-ordination and management to make sure information is accurate and is filed on time during the NEB’s review.

If the Project is approved, the Regulatory function will quickly shift focus. It will likely grow to track and meet commitments and approval conditions, as well as to ensure regulations are followed during the construction phase of the Project.

What is the Regulatory goal for the Project?

While the Regulatory team has no specific policy, we work with many other Project teams to support their policies, goals and objectives. We make sure the Project team has the information it needs to comply with regulatory requirements during all phases of the Project.

We support the Project team in meeting the information needs and requirements of regulatory agencies and of the public. And by looking at past experiences, the experiences of other companies and the experiences of the communities in which we operate, we help the Project team look forward to identify improvements and plan for risks.

How has the regulatory process changed over the years?

The National Energy Board was established in 1959 to regulate pipelines crossing provincial and international boundaries in Canada, as well as power lines that cross international boundaries. The NEB also regulates some aspects of resource exploration in the North and in certain areas offshore.

With respect to pipelines, the depth and breadth of information now required in an Application is much greater than it has ever been. In addition, the level of regulatory oversight during the operational phase of a pipeline has also increased. The intensity of public involvement in the hearing phase of NEB reviews has increased exponentially over the past six or so years, with more people wanting to participate in all aspects of the regulatory process. I would say that energy development in Canada, including pipeline projects, is the most scrutinized and regulated industry in this country.

There’s been a lot of discussion and questions about the review process and whether the lack of an oral cross-examination changes the rigour of the review. What do you think?

The NEB’s public process functions a lot like a court – evidence is collected, tested and everything is on the public record, so all parties in the process understand the case before them. The NEB is a quasi-judicial tribunal and makes decisions or recommendations to Governor in Council to determine if proposed projects are in the public interest. Everyone at Trans Mountain is supportive of a fair, thorough and efficient regulatory review process for our proposed Project. The 400 Intervenors have multiple opportunities to submit and test evidence through two rounds of Information Request submissions and there’s no limit to the volume of questions. There are other, well-established and thorough Project review processes that include public participation without oral cross-examinations including the BC EA process and the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

What about the environmental aspects of the review, how are these different from a provincial environmental review?

I get asked about this a lot. The NEB is required to carry out an environmental and socio-economic assessment in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEA Act, 2012). The NEB’s obligations under the CEA Act, 2012 are incorporated into the NEB’s review process so that all aspects of a project within the NEB’s jurisdiction are reviewed.

The environmental and socio-economic assessment (ESA) prepared for the Project is very comprehensive and was prepared to meet the CEA Act, 2012 requirement and the NEB List of Issues and would likely be very similar to any ESA carried out under a provincial jurisdiction.

What one thing would you like people to know about Regulatory?

Regulatory work and administrative law is not as boring as you’d think. The work combines different interests and ideas. We have to understand law, regulations, engineering and strategy. We also need to be skilled in writing, project management, facilitation, conflict resolution and have a really good memory.