National Energy Board - fact sheet

What is the National Energy Board?

The National Energy Board is an independent federal regulator established in 1959.

The NEB has quasi-judicial powers, with the rights and privileges of a superior court, established by the National Energy Board Act (NEB Act). Our decisions are all enforceable in law. For major applications and inquiries, we hold public hearings where parties must submit evidence into the public record and decisions must be based on the evidence submitted.

We do not create or debate federal energy policy. The Parliament of Canada and its elected officials have that mandate. The only way we participate in the government's energy policy is if we are asked to provide expert opinion on energy matters that are then used by the government in setting energy policy.

What is the NEB's mandate?

The NEB's purpose is to promote safety and security, environmental protection and efficient energy infrastructure and markets in the Canadian public interest. We do this within the mandate set by Parliament in the regulation of pipelines, energy development and trade.

Our main responsibilities include regulating the construction and operation of interprovincial and international oil and gas pipelines, international power lines and designated interprovincial power lines. We also regulate the tolls and tariffs for pipelines under its jurisdiction. As well, the we regulate the export of natural gas, oil, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and electricity, and the import of natural gas.

The NEB publishes assessments to inform Canadians on trends, events and issues that may affect Canadian energy markets. As well, we regulate oil and gas exploration and development on specified areas that are not regulated under joint federal/provincial accords.

Our regulatory oversight extends over 73,000 kilometres of pipeline across the country, and approximately 1,400 kilometres of international power lines.

How does the NEB operate?

Applications are made to the NEB for any of the activities we regulate. After an application is submitted, we review it and determine whether a hearing is required and if so, whether it is to be a written or an oral hearing. A hearing will typically be held for certain types of applications, such as for new interprovincial or international pipelines more than 40 kilometres in length (these are known as section 52 facility applications or Part III applications, referring to the section and part of the NEB Act under which they are submitted).

To convene a hearing, we issue a hearing order that provides details on the process, including how persons who are directly affected or who have relevant information or expertise can participate, and the deadline to apply to participate. More information is available on our website in the National Energy Board Hearing Process Handbook. Applications filed under section 58 or Part IV of the NEB Act do not automatically trigger a public hearing.

The NEB's involvement in a project does not end with an approval. We can attach any number of conditions to project approvals. We then monitor and enforce them throughout the life cycle of the project, from approval to abandonment.

What does the NEB consider when reviewing an application?

During the review of an application, we consider all information that is relevant, keeping in mind our mandate and jurisdiction. For an application where a hearing order is issued, we will typically include a list of issues outlining what we will consider.

How does the NEB protect the environment and ensure public safety of NEB-regulated projects?

Environmental assessment

Since our beginning in 1959, the NEB has considered the environment when making regulatory decisions. Our environmental responsibility includes promoting environmental protection during planning, construction, operation, and abandonment of facilities within our jurisdiction.

Making sure the right safety measures are in place and taking the appropriate enforcement actions are key to protecting the environment. We have some 75 staff with expertise in environmental protection, including those specializing in:

  • 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

Companies planning to build energy facilities are required to satisfy the NEB that they have anticipated environmental effects likely to be associated with the project. We conduct an environmental assessment during our review of applications as a part of our public interest mandate.

Some major NEB-regulated projects also require an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEA Act 2012). As a "responsible authority" under the CEA Act 2012, we ensure the right environmental assessments are conducted for projects under our jurisdiction, according to standards prescribed by the legislation.

We also audit and inspect a company’s activities, including routine maintenance and monitoring procedures over the life cycle of an energy project. We do this to confirm that the project complies with regulatory requirements and any conditions we have imposed.

Environmental protection and safety

If a project is approved, we expect the company to continue to protect the environment, public health and safety. We confirm this by auditing and inspecting the company's construction activities, maintenance and monitoring procedures during the operation of the pipeline, and its procedures during abandonment.

The NEB's environmental responsibility includes promoting environmental protection during the planning, construction, operation and abandonment of energy projects within its jurisdiction. When making our decisions, we may consider:

  • environmental concerns related to air, land and water pollution
  • disturbance of renewable and non-renewable resources
  • the integrity of natural habitats
  • the disruption of land and resource use
  • the protection of landowner rights

Safety is one of the NEB’s top priorities. We are responsible for ensuring companies meet regulations on the safety of employees, public and environment, as they may be affected by the design, construction, operation, maintenance and abandonment of a pipeline or international power line. We work with the Canadian Standards Association to establish safety regulations and technical standards for federally regulated pipelines.

Through an agreement between the NEB and Human Resources and Social Development Canada, certain NEB staff members have been designated as safety officers for the occupational health and safety of pipeline company field staff. These health and safety duties are usually combined with other construction site and facility inspections.

The NEB shares responsibility with the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) for incident investigation. We investigate pipeline incidents to determine whether our regulations have been followed and if those regulations may need to be changed. The TSB investigates the cause and contributing factors. We also monitor excavation activity by third parties near pipelines to enforce compliance with existing regulations.

We have a rigorous compliance monitoring and enforcement program – we hold companies accountable for results in the public interest. The program includes compliance audits and inspection of construction and operating facilities. When a violation or an unsafe condition is detected, we expect immediate correction and an assessment of the root causes, so the issue doesn’t happen again. Failure to address a violation or unsafe condition can result in further NEB sanction, such as suspension of operation.

What happens if there is a release?

Our focus is on preventing incidents from happening in the first place. We expect regulated companies to strive for zero spills or releases. However, should an incident occur, our top priority is the safety and security of people, as well as the protection of the environment.

Each regulated company must maintain an up-to-date emergency procedure manual outlining its emergency management procedures to be followed during an incident. The procedures must address emergency management, environmental protection, and worker and public safety. This plan must be on file with the NEB and the TSB.

Companies are responsible for reporting any incident to the TSB and the NEB and for implementing their emergency response plan. We initiate our incident response procedures, which may include activation of our Emergency Operations Centre.

We will verify that a company conducts an adequate and appropriate cleanup and remediation of any environmental effects resulting from the incident.

Download National Energy Board – Fact Sheet [PDF 213 KB]

Contact information

Contact information
Address: National Energy Board
Suite 210, 517 Tenth Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
T2R 0A8
General email: info@neb-one.gc.ca
Library email: library@neb-one.gc.ca
Publications email: publications@neb-one.gc.ca
Lands email: LandsInfo@neb-one.gc.ca
Website: www.neb-one.gc.ca
Telephone: 403-292-4800
Toll free: 1-800-899-1265
Fax: 403-292-5503
Toll free fax: 1-877-288-8803
TTY (teletype): 1-800-632-1663
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