Hearing Process

Each hearing is unique and comes with detailed instructions in the hearing order, including how to register to participate. Learn more about a specific project by visiting the View Applications and Projects and REGDOCS pages on our website.

The diagram below provides a high-level overview of the steps leading to a hearing and a decision for most large projects the CER reviews. For more information on how we consult with Indigenous peoples, go to the Crown Consultation page.

The Hearing Process

Company files project notification

The company notifies the CER before submitting certain applications (see note below). This is typically done 2 to 4 months in advance, depending on the type of application.
In response to this notification, we will:

  • provide a receipt of project notification to the company
  • confirm the initial list of potentially affected Indigenous peoples
  • provide initial feedback on whether all potentially affected persons and communities have been identified by the company
  • determine the extent, scope and need of any CER-led engagement

Note: notification to the CER is only required for projects that need an application under the following sections of the Canadian Energy Regulator Act:

  • section 183 (applications for pipeline certificates)
  • section 214 (applications for pipeline orders)
  • section 262 (applications for power line certificates)
  • section 298 (applications for offshore renewable energy projects and offshore power lines)

We expect companies to identify potentially affected persons and communities, including Indigenous peoples, and undertake project-specific engagement activities based on its engagement program. See the Early Engagement Guide and Filing Manual for more information.

CER engages the public and Indigenous peoples

The CER engages the public and Indigenous peoples who may be impacted by a project. Our process advisors are available to support participants in hearing processes, and may to go to communities to provide information on the process.

For more information, see:

Company files project application

The company submits an application to the CER, which includes the information required by the relevant filing manual or the On-line Application System. We will confirm the Crown list of potentially affected Indigenous peoples when the application is filed.

We require companies to notify all potentially affected persons and communities, including landowners and Indigenous peoples, that an application has been filed with the CER. The notice should indicate that people can raise any project-related concerns with us.

Canadians, including landowners and Indigenous peoples, who have specific concerns about a company’s proposed energy project, can submit a statement of concern within 30 days of an application being filed with the CER.

For more information, see:

Participants register for hearing

If you wish to participate, you must register as a participant. You can register in the official language of your choice. The two most common ways to participate in a hearing are as a commenter or as an intervenor. The amount of preparation and work commitment depends on how you are participating. The table below illustrates these differences:  

Participants register for hearing
  General Public Participant
Commenter Intervenor
Need to Register?
Access to public hearing record?
Watch oral portions online?
Submit letter of comment?
Present evidence?
Ask questions of other parties?
Funding for eligible participants?

Being an intervenor requires a commitment to the hearing process and a commitment of your time. There may be costs associated with being an intervenor, such as preparing your evidence, making copies and, sending documents to other parties. You don’t need to hire a lawyer to participate in a hearing or any other CER process. The hearing process may seem formal or court-like at times. We have process advisors to help you effectively participate in processes that may be unfamiliar.

CER Commission holds public hearing

The process chosen by the CER for a hearing will be adapted based on the project being assessed and those participating. The hearing order is a key document published at the beginning of a hearing process that gives details on the timing, deadlines, and overall process. It is your map for participating in the hearing.

Once it’s published, you can find a hearing order by visiting the View Applications and Projects page and clicking on the specific project page for the Hearing that interest you.

Official Languages

The Commission conducts both bilingual and unilingual hearings, depending on the language choices of the participants. In bilingual hearings, all documents issued by the Commission will be in both official languages. In a unilingual hearing, Commission documents may be issued in one language only.

Hearing record

We maintain a public record of the information collected during each hearing process and who filed it. Evidence filed for an application from companies and Intervenors is made available to the public in REGDOCS, the oral portion of the hearing is broadcast on our website, and transcripts from each day of the hearing are also available online.

Participants should be aware that anything they file is a public document, including their contact information, and it forms the official legal record of the hearing. When the CER receives confidential Indigenous Knowledge we will not make it publically available. Other information may be kept confidential in some cases, but this requires permission from the Commission.

Evidence

Evidence refers to reports, statements, photographs and other material or information that supports the view you are presenting. It must be filed with the CER and sent to the company and other Intervenors by the deadlines set out in the Hearing Order. Most evidence is filed electronically. Any evidence that you provide must be adopted under oath, usually during the oral portion of the hearing. This means that you will be sworn in or affirmed, and will be asked to confirm that the evidence was prepared by you or under your direction or control, and it is accurate to the best of your knowledge and belief. Sometimes you may adopt your evidence in writing by filing an affidavit.

At the oral portion of the hearing or in information requests, you may be asked questions about the evidence you have submitted. Be prepared to answer questions on your evidence.

Typical oral hearing steps

Most smaller hearings are written only. Many larger hearings have an oral portion where the participants present to the Commissioners. To learn more about the different people present at the oral portion, see the Hearing Room page for more information. Please consult the hearing order for actual steps, the following steps are for general information only:

  1. Opening statement by the Presiding Commissioner followed by the registration of each party.
  2. The company (applicant) presents its witnesses for cross-examination by other parties.
  3. Intervenors follow the same process of witnesses for cross-examination by other participants who take an opposing position.
  4. The Commission may set aside a specific time to hear oral statements during the oral hearing, if oral statements are part of the proceeding.
  5. The company can reply to any new matters raised during cross-examination.
  6. The Commission issues the draft conditions for comment (may occur before or during the hearing).
  7. Parties summarize their position in their final argument, beginning with the company, followed by the Intervenors
  8. The company is allowed a final reply argument.

For more information:

Commission issues report

Generally, the Commission takes some time to thoroughly consider all the evidence presented before it announces its recommendation to the Governor in Council (GIC) or makes a final decision in other cases.

We work in the public interest. This means we make decisions based on things that matter to everyone instead of only what is best for a few. The Commission will assess the overall public good a project may create and its potential negative aspects, and also weigh its various impacts and make a recommendation or decision.

As the Commission assesses the evidence, it also identifies conditions the company would need to comply with. Some examples of conditions include:

  • restricting the timing of construction
  • limiting impacts on agricultural growing
  • requiring a noise-levels report
  • conducting a study of rare plants
  • providing details on construction technology

Generally, the Commission releases its recommendations report or decision within 12 weeks of the conclusion of the hearing. The hearing’s outcome is announced in a publication called the CER Report or the CER Decision, made available on REGDOCS. We also issue a news release announcing the release of the report or decision. Under the CER Act, the Commission has no more than 450 days from the date an application is determined to be complete to make a recommendation or decision on most large facilities applications.

Decisions made by the CER may be appealed to Canada's Federal Court of Appeal on a point of law or jurisdiction if the Court grants permission (or leave) to appeal it. An appeal cannot be made simply because someone is unhappy with the outcome. An application asking for permission to appeal, known as a “leave to appeal application” must be filed with the Federal Court of Appeal within 30 days following our decision.

We also have the option to review or alter our own decisions. Parties involved in the hearing can ask the Commission for a review but only if specific requirements are met. These requirements are listed in the National Energy Board Rules of Practice and Procedures. If we decide to hold a review, we may hold a hearing or ask for further input from people interested in the project.

The Governor in Council (GIC) makes decision

If the CER finds that a project is in the public interest, it will either recommend approval of the application to the GIC or will make the decision itself, depending on the type of application.

The GIC must make the final decision to approve or deny an application within 90 days of receiving the CER Report. During this period, the GIC may ask questions about the report or ask the Commission to reconsider recommended conditions. If the GIC approves the project, it will order the Commission to issue the certificate that allows the company to construct and operate the project. If the GIC denies the project, it will order the Commission to dismiss the application. 

Neither decisions made by the GIC nor the CER Report are subject to appeal under the CER Act. However, an application for judicial review of the GIC’s order to direct the Commission to issue a certificate or to dismiss an application can be filed with the Federal Court of Appeal, within 15 days of the day the GIC’s order is published.

What happens if a project is approved?

The CER takes a life cycle approach to regulation as we are involved in most projects from start to finish. This includes the application process, construction and long-term operation of the facilities, and when the project is no longer needed by the company (abandonment).

If a project is approved, there will be conditions on that approval. The company is obligated to adhere to these conditions and we make sure it does through various means, including inspections. Inspections may take place to ensure the project is continuing to operate in a safe manner. If inspectors find that the company is not meeting the conditions, we can take action to enforce them.
For more information, see:

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