Pipeline critics await high court’s green light to challenge energy board

VANCOUVER – Opponents of Canada’s big energy projects will soon learn if the country’s highest court will consider an appeal that could drastically alter public participation in National Energy Board reviews.

A panel of Supreme Court of Canada justices has received an application from ForestEthics Advocacy and several interveners to hear a constitutional challenge of revised energy-board regulations.

ForestEthics says changes to a section of the National Energy Board Act restrict evidence related to climate and limit public participation in hearings examining the impact of major energy projects such as pipelines.

ForestEthics Advocacy director Karen Mahon says the changes erode democracy, prevent Canadians from speaking out and must be struck down.

Vancouver lawyer David Martin says the attempt by the oil industry, the Harper government and energy board to curtail public participation in hearings contravenes freedom-of-expression laws established by the high court.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justices Richard Wagner and Clement Gascon will decide whether the court will hear the application for appeal, although no date has been set for the decision.