The NEB's Lifecycle Approach to Protecting the Environment

The NEB takes a lifecycle approach to the management of environmental issues throughout all phases of a regulated facility including the planning and application phase, the application assessment and public hearing phase, the construction and post-construction phase, the operations and maintenance phase, and the abandonment phase.

While the companies the NEB regulates have a responsibility for ensuring their pipelines and power lines are planned, built, operated and abandoned in a manner that protects the environment, and respects the rights of those affected, the NEB also has a large role to play.

The NEB has Environment, Socio-economic, Lands and Engagement Specialists deployed to teams throughout the organization. These specialists deliver environmental and socio-economic assessments, environmental inspections, audits of environmental management systems, lands administration, and landowner complaint resolution. They may also contribute to the environmental aspects of the NEB's Energy Market Analyses.

Phases of a regulated facility

The NEB's purpose is to promote safety, security, environmental protection, and efficient energy infrastructure and markets with respect to relevant aspects of the Canadian energy industry. While environmental, socio-economic and land issues are only one part of the NEB's mandate, they are very important.

Here is the lifecycle of a regulated facility, showing the activities the NEB performs or influences at each phase to manage environmental issues.

Phases of a regulated facility
Text description of this graphic
  • Facility Lifecycle
    • NEB tools and activities
  • Company's Planning and Pre-Application
    • Information requirements (Filing Manual)
    • Pre-Application meetings
  • Application Assessment and/or Public Hearing
    • Environmental & socio-econimic assessment
    • Conditions on approval
  • Construction and Post Construction
    • Ensure condition compliance
    • Inspections
    • Post-construction monitoring reports
  • Operations and Maintenance
    • Audits
    • Inspections
    • Incident inspection
  • Abandonment
    • Environmental & socio-economic assessment
    • Conditions on approval
    • Inspections

Environmental Assessment at the NEB

What is an environmental assessment?

An environmental assessment is a review of the environmental effects likely to be associated with an energy project. This assessment is completed before the NEB makes a decision or recommendation on whether or not to approve an application.

What does the NEB consider during an environmental assessment?

The NEB considers many factors when conducting an environmental assessment (EA), including:

  • physical and meteorological environment
  • soil, soil productivity and vegetation
  • wetlands, water quality and quantity
  • fish, wildlife, and their habitat
  • species at risk or species of special status and related habitat
  • heritage resources
  • traditional land and resource use
  • human health, aesthetics and noise

The EA considers the likely environmental effects, the adequacy of proposed mitigation measures to protect the environment, and the significance of effects after mitigation measures would be implemented. The Board commonly imposes additional conditions on projects to ensure environmental protection measures will be implemented and will be sufficient.

Further information can be found on the Board’s FAQs on Environmental Assessments.

View the list of project phases and links below to find more information about the NEB's activities that influence or manage these issues:

Company's planning and pre-application phase

While the NEB does not regulate a company's activities during this phase of project development, the NEB can influence a company's planning activities by requiring certain information that must be submitted as part of a complete application to support the NEB's environmental assessment and regulatory decisions. The NEB's information requirements are described in the NEB's Filing Manual and guidance on environmental, socio-economic and land information that is typically provided in an application is specified in Chapter 4.

Any interested party can also request a pre-application meeting with NEB staff to learn more about the application assessment and hearing process.

What is the purpose of a pre-application meeting?

Pre-application meetings are held to assist a regulated company or other party to gain a better understanding of application processes and regulatory requirements.

Pre-application meetings can be requested by anyone interested in an energy project. Most often, these meetings are held between the NEB staff and the company who will be submitting an application.

For more information on the NEB's pre-application meetings and guidance notes, go to the Pre-application Meetings and Guidance Notes document on our website.

How does the NEB set expectations for what environmental issues the company must address in their application?

The NEB provides a list of environmental issues it expects companies to respond to in their applications. These requirements are specified in the NEB Filing Manual in chapter 4.

How can members of the public share their views before a company submits an application?

Members of the public may learn about a proposed project through early engagement efforts by the proponent, as required by the NEB.

Comments or concerns can be directed to the company or to the NEB at any time during the pre-application phase of an energy project.

Application assessment and/or public hearing phase

Companies are required to submit an environmental and socio-economic assessment as one part of a complete application. When the NEB receives an application, NEB staff assess a range of issues related to the application, including environmental, socio-economic and lands issues. The NEB fulfills its environmental assessment duties under the National Energy Board Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. For larger or more complex projects, the NEB will hold a public hearing to hear the views of the public.

What kind of environmental information must the company provide to the NEB?

Companies are required to file information explaining how the proposed project will affect the environment and what measures they will take to avoid causing harm to the environment. Information about preferred and alternate routes must be provided.

All project-related documents, including environmental reports submitted by applicants, are available for public viewing on our website or in the NEB library.

How can I make my views known during the environmental assessment process?

The NEB expects companies to consider consultation for all projects. Depending on the project, that could mean carrying out an extensive consultation program or simply notifying landowners. Companies are obliged to justify the extent of consultation carried out for each project.

Consultation ensures the company informs the public about its project plans, and listens and responds to any comments. You may also contact the NEB to learn if your concern is one the NEB may be able to address.

When a company submits its application, it must include information on who was consulted and what information the company provided them with.

Construction and post-construction phase

If an application for a facility is approved by the NEB, the NEB will regulate the construction and post-construction activities carried out by the company by monitoring compliance with the conditions of approval. These conditions may specify how and when a company will construct its facility. The NEB will monitor company compliance through inspections of construction activities and by reviewing the company's post-construction monitoring reports.

Who ensures the company follows the approved conditions of the construction?

The NEB requires companies to have qualified inspectors to oversee construction activities. The NEB also conducts its own inspections and audits to ensure that construction activities meet applicable legislation and the conditions of the project approval.

What condition will the right-of-way be restored to?

Once construction is finished, the company must restore and maintain the right-of-way to a condition acceptable to both the landowner and to the NEB. The right-of-way is normally restored so it is similar to the surrounding environment and consistent with current land use.

Operations and maintenance phase

During the operations and maintenance phase, regulated companies must comply with the NEB's Onshore Pipeline Regulations and with the National Energy Board Processing Plant Regulations, as well as any undertakings made during the applications process. Companies are provided additional clarity as to the NEB's expectations in the Operations and Maintenance Activities on Pipelines Regulated Under the National Energy Board Act: Requirements and Guidance Notes, in any Guidance Notes attached to regulations, and in regulatory and advisory letters that the NEB publishes from time to time.

To evaluate environmental performance or compliance, the NEB will, where appropriate, audit a company's programs and/or inspect a company's operations and maintenance activities. Should an incident occur, such as a pipeline leak or rupture, the NEB will inspect the incident and report the results, where warranted. The NEB expects companies to remediate the environmental effects resulting from a pipeline leak or rupture.

How does the NEB monitor the project after construction has been completed?

On most pipeline projects, the NEB requires the company to file post-construction reports. These reports identify any environmental issues caused by construction activities. These reports identify issues that have been resolved, those that remain unresolved and what the company plans to do about unresolved issues. Typically these reports are filed six months after construction is completed and then again after each growing season for the next two years.

Companies are also required to regularly check for signs of pipeline leaks or impacts to the land along the right-of-way, such as slope movement, erosion, compaction, weed infestations and infringements on the right-of-way by third parties. When ongoing issues are identified, the NEB can require further action from the company to correct the situation. A similar process is followed for new power lines.

How does the NEB ensure the company continues to meet regulatory requirements after construction is complete?

NEB staff ensures the approval conditions are met throughout the operating life of energy facilities. NEB staff inspects pipelines, compressor stations, pumps, processing plants and other facilities operating under our regulations. Staff may investigate leaks, spills, or other environmental incidents to determine whether corrective actions are needed. A company's environmental management system may be audited to ensure environmental protection plans are applied effectively in the field.

What should I do if I notice an environmental problem?

Anyone who believes a company's construction procedures are harming the environment should contact both the company and the NEB.

In response, the company is required to contact the affected party and reply to the NEB explaining the actions taken to resolve the problem. The NEB's responsibility is to ensure appropriate actions are taken by the company to address concerns.

What happens if there is an environmental emergency concerning a pipeline?

Although rare, pipeline leaks or ruptures can happen. The NEB requires companies to establish procedures for prompt, effective response and clean-up. Where there is a potential for incidents to significantly affect the environment, public health or safety, the NEB requires companies to establish an emergency response plan.

When an incident occurs, the company must report it to the NEB immediately. For serious incidents, NEB staff monitors the company's response to ensure appropriate recovery, clean-up and site restoration. After repairs are made and the site is restored, the company must file a report with the NEB describing the location, extent of damage, volumes of product lost, containment measures and the clean-up and restoration procedures. In the case of a serious incident, the NEB may call a public inquiry to evaluate emergency, safety, and environmental protection procedures and associated regulations.

Companies are required to test their emergency response plans through simulated emergencies or spill exercises. These exercises are designed to test response strategies and communications systems, as well as provide an opportunity for field staff to gain practical experience in the deployment of spill response equipment.

Abandonment phase

If a company wants to abandon a facility, it must submit an application, including an environmental and socio-economic assessment, to the NEB. NEB staff will assess the application and the NEB may hold a public hearing. If the abandonment is approved, the NEB may impose conditions and inspect the abandonment activities.

At this time, the NEB has received only a few applications to abandon facilities under its jurisdiction, although, as existing facilities age, the NEB expects it will receive more applications to abandon regulated facilities.

What does it mean to abandon a project?

Abandonment is the permanent removal from service of an energy facility. Facilities can be taken out of service, or deactivated, for a period of time without being abandoned.

How does abandonment affect the environment?

Abandonment of any pipeline or related facility regulated by the NEB requires approval. The NEB conducts an environmental assessment of the proposed abandonment and will determine what restoration work is required. A restoration plan is approved before work begins to ensure that land disturbed by the removal or sealing of a pipeline is restored.

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