By Nahnda Garlow with CP files
MONTREAL — All future National Energy Board hearings into TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project will be suspended until the board rules on motions demanding two of three panel members resign, the federal regulatory body announced Tuesday.
The board received the motions after a news report revealed the two members met with ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was at the time a paid lobbyist for TransCanada.
“Given that the board has invited written comments by Sept. 7, 2016 on these motions, the board will not proceed with further panel sessions until it reaches a decision,” it said in a statement.
The pipeline wants to cross the Iroquois traditional territory of the Kahnawà:ke, Akwesásne and Kanehsatá:ke communities.
Elected Council Chiefs from the three communities held a press conference to express their position on the proposed TransCanada pipeline project, in lieu of the presentation that would have been made Monday.
“Our primary concern is for the safety and protection of the land,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton. ”We had this event (press conference) because we didn’t want our messages to the general public to get lost as a result of the postponement.”
“Overall, we have very little faith in the NEB process,” he added. “The Crown needs to meet its obligation to consult with us, not the NEB.
On Monday, protesters stormed a conference room in Montreal minutes before the public hearings were scheduled to take place, forcing the NEB to cancel the day’s events.
The NEB also ditched Tuesday’s panel sessions “as a result of a violent disruption on the first day of proceedings and ongoing security concerns,” the statement said.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre walked out of the hearings Monday after anti-pipeline protesters began screaming and chanting.
Coderre, who has come out against the pipeline, suggested strongly the NEB review process had the perception of bias in light of the reports panel members had met with Charest.
TransCanada said Tuesday the company “will wait for the NEB to provide guidance on how it plans to proceed.’’
The company said it will “look forward to continuing to be able to listen to people’s questions and concerns regarding Energy East and to address them.”
“In the meantime, we will continue to engage with municipalities, land owners, indigenous communities, and others in order to listen to questions and issues that are raised about the project, and to address them,” TransCanada said.
Hearings were set for this week in Montreal before moving to Quebec City the week of Oct. 3.