The passing of Bill C-38, a 450-page bill called the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, in July 2012 has reduced the National Energy Board's role to that of an adviser.
"Prior to that (Bill C-38) the board was decision maker," Jamie Kereliuk, business leader applications at the NEB, told the Citizen on Thursday. "We decide whether it's in the public interest. Then pass that along to government."
The board is responsible for collecting information, verifying its validity, consulting with Canadians and ultimately preparing a report for the federal government with recommendations on how to proceed.
The final decision regarding the Energy East pipeline will lie in the hands of the federal government.
Nonetheless, Kereliuk encouraged those affected by the project - including those in the Ottawa area - to make their voices heard.
"The board must hear from people affected by the project," said Kereliuk, adding that TransCanada also has a role to reach out to communities and clarify any questions or comments they may have about the project.
"They have to be consulting with potentially affected people. We have high expectations for them to have many consultations with everyone affected."
He also said the federal budget has set aside funding, estimated at around $28 million, to help pay some costs for individuals or groups who would like to act as interveners on the project and either speak in favour or against the initiative.
The funding is meant to help cover travel costs, legal fees, technical reports and other costs associated with providing comment on TransCanada's plans.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a strong supporter of the Energy East Pipeline, as well as other pipeline initiatives including Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in British Columbia.
According to documents filed as part of the 2014 annual budget, the pipeline is part of the government's plans to see Canada begin pumping as much as 5.8 million barrels of oil each day by the year 2035, a 75 per cent increase over 2012 levels, with 86 per cent of the total coming from Alberta's oilsands. Currently, the oilsands account for 57 per cent of Canada's oil production.
TransCanada's proposal would see its Energy East pipeline carry as much as 1.1 million barrels of crude oil daily through the southern tip of the city, and across the Rideau River, on its way from Alberta to refineries in Eastern Canada.
The company is proposing to retrofit the 3,000-kilometre Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline, which runs through Ottawa. The proposal also calls for the construction of large pumping stations, required to keep thick crude oil moving through the pipeline, near Pakenham and Stittsville.
The Pakenham pumping station would be located southwest of the intersection of Upper Dwyer Hill Road and Kinburn Sideroad.
The Stittsville station would be located just north of Fallowfield Road, about halfway between Dwyer Hill and Eagleson roads.
The NEB's Kereliuk said TransCanada is expected to file a description of the Energy East project within the next six to eight weeks.
The company has told the NEB it is targeting late summer to file its official application for the project.
Kereliuk said once the application is filed, the NEB has to sort through the filing, which will be thousands of pages long, to ensure it is complete.
When the application is certified as complete, the NEB has 15 months to hold public consultations, collect feedback from people that may be affected by the initiative and compile a report that can be turned over to the federal government.
The federal energy critic, NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster Peter Julian, questioned the credibility of the process.
He said changes made after the introduction of Bill C-38 have pushed many people in British Columbia to fight pipeline projects, such at the Northern Gateway Pipeline, in civil courts. As many as 10 different lawsuits have been filed.
"They've eliminated all creditability. (People) just don't see the process as being legitimate anymore, which is why they are fighting these developments in court," he said.
"By cabinet decree, regardless of anything that the NEB decides, they override the decision."
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli have both expressed a desire to work with TransCanada on its proposal.
Neither has endorsed the project, however both have expressed an interest in making sure the pipeline is safe and meets all environmental and safety requirements.
The Ontario Energy Board has been asked to perform its own consultations about the project and report its findings back to the provincial government.
TransCanada says it wants to see oil flowing by 2017. ILLUS: Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press / TransCanada Corp., led by CEO Russ Girling, is behind the $12-million Energy East Pipeline project.;