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Peter Watson, chairman and CEO of the National Energy Board, says he isn’t concerned by the recommendations of a panel looking to modernize the agency. (CBC) The head of the National Energy Board says the proposed overhaul of the federal regulator will make it more suited to the challenges of the 21st century.

Speaking at the sidelines of an industry safety workshop, NEB chairman Peter Watson says recommendations last month by a modernization panel could fix some of the limitations of the regulator and help it keep up with the times.

He says he’s not concerned by the suggestions the panel put forth, which include splitting off data production into a separate organization, and no longer requiring board members to live in Calgary as a way to avoid perceptions of them being too close to industry.

The NEB has come under criticism in the past for appearing too cosy with oil and gas companies, highlighted by the closed-door meeting held with then TransCanada consultant Jean Charest that derailed the Energy East pipeline hearings, and for the limitations of its consultations with the public.

Watson says the regulator has been somewhat limited by its legislation, and that changes to rules on governance, public participation, and the role of Indigenous people will help the NEB adapt to changing expectations.

He says in the meantime, the NEB is also taking its own initiative to improve pipeline safety and regulations, including a two-day workshop being held in Calgary to discuss how to improve manufacturing standards for pipeline parts.

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