The much anticipated email landed at 4:28 p.m. EDT on a Friday afternoon. From a communications officer with the National Energy Board, its subject line was succinct and to the point: “Energy East Hearing Panel Steps Down.”
After months of controversy swirling around the three-person panel assigned to consider the Energy East pipeline proposal, sparked by the revelation that two of the three members had participated in a secret meeting with a TransCanada employee and then lied about it, the axe finally fell.
The linked statement read:
All three Panel Members have decided to recuse themselves in order to preserve the integrity of the National Energy Board and of the Energy East and Eastern Mainline Review.
The Energy East and Eastern Mainline Hearing is adjourned until a new panel is appointed. Once a new panel is appointed, the review of the two project applications can and will proceed.
The two also recused themselves from their administrative duties as chair and vice-chair on the Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications.
They are doing so because they understand that their participation in these meetings may have created an apprehension of bias which could undermine the integrity and the credibility of the Board’s decision making process.
Reaction on social media was swift, with activists from Quebec and across North America celebrating the indefinite adjournment of the NEB process as a victory.
Some also singled out National Observer investigative journalist Mike De Souza for praise. His access to information requests uncovered the secret meeting, and his original reporting uncorked a maelstrom of discontent in Quebec, resulting in today’s decision to fold up the review process.