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NEB stretches TransCanada Energy East pipeline decision to 2018

The National Energy Board has set an extended timeline toreach a decision on TransCanadaCorp.'s C$15.7 billion Energy East project in March 2018, ninemonths before the 4,600-kilometer line was originally supposed to be in service.

In addition to consideration by the board, known as the NEB,a decision by Canada's federal government will not come for at least three moremonths as the environment department conducts a separate review of the project.The NEB based its timeline on an anticipated revised filing of TransCanada'sproject application in mid-May, the regulator said in an April 26 statement onits website.

TransCanada filed its first application in what is alegislated 15-month process in October 2014. Since then, changes in route,design and government have pushed the timeline out and pushed the project'scost up by an estimatedC$3.7 billion. The line would carry 1.1 million barrels per day of oil sandscrude from Alberta to a port and refinery in New Brunswick and deliver oil torefineries in Quebec along its route.

"This timeframe reflects an extended time limit of 21 monthsfor the process, as directed by the Minister of Natural Resources," theNEB said in its statement. "National Energy Board reviews are typicallyconducted within a 15-month time limit."

An NEB panel will hold hearings on the application fromAugust to December and then hear final arguments on the plan in November andDecember 2017. The board will send its report to the federal government aboutthree months later.

Energy East has been stymied by objections from communitiesand regulators along its route. Local gas distributors in Quebec and Ontario raised concern thatconverting a natural gas conduit to oil-carrying service would reduce theiraccess to western Canadian gas. Concerns about endangered whales in Quebec promptedTransCanada to scuttle a marine terminal on the St. Lawrence River, and thecompany recently agreed to a review of the project by Quebec's department, fendingoff a court challenge.