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Social licences get put to the test

Social licences get put to the test

The federal Liberals announced decisions on three key pipeline projects today. Prime Minister Trudeau made the announcement in a press conference, emphasizing that each decision was based on science, rigorous debate and evidence, not politics.

Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement

As expected, PM Trudeau announced the approval of Enbridge's Line 3 replacement, which runs from Alberta to Manitoba's southern border (Canadian section of the line only). The project involves the replacement of an existing 50 year old pipeline, and was largely expected to be approved. The segment that runs on the US side of the border (from North Dakota to Wisconsin) still requires state-level permits.

Enbridge's Northern Gateway

Following through on an election promise, Trudeau announced his government will be preparing formal legislation for a crude oil tanker ban on BC's northern coast. The ban applies to crude oil only, and not LNG, gasoline or refined products. The government also announced that they have instructed the National Energy Board to dismiss applications for Northern Gateway, reiterating that the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline.

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion

In an unexpected twist, the PM approved Kinder Morgan's expansion of the Trans Mountain Line, which runs from the Edmonton area to export terminals in Burnaby, BC and Washington State. The pipeline (which coincidentally runs through Jasper National Park) faces stiff opposition in the Vancouver area. Trudeau's close friend, Mayor Gregor Robertson, released a statement noting that Vancouver is already doing very well economically (thanks very much) and doesn't need or want a pipeline. A decision on Trans Mountain was not expected until the middle of December.

The Prime Minister says both the Line 3 replacement and Trans Mountain expansion meet the strictest of environmental standards and are in the best interest of the entire country. The PM says he personally would never approve any project if he thought the environment was at risk.

Prime Minister Trudeau also took the time to thank Premier Rachel Notley for implementing a cap on oil sands emissions and taking steps towards reducing GHGs, noting this would not have been possible under the previous government regime. Premier Notley also issued a statement that read “Our province has been brutally slammed by the collapse in commodity prices. It has been a long, dark night for the people of Alberta as a result. Today we are finally seeing some morning light."

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose expressed disappointment over the "arbitrary" quashing of Northern Gateway and also expressed doubts Trans Mountain will ever get built. The project was heavy politicized, particularly during the last federal election, and likely faces hefty litigation in the province of BC. Ambrose said granting federal approval is the "easy part" and does not think Trudeau will further put his political capital at risk to champion the project through the next phase.

When asked about opposition in local communities, Trudeau acknowledged that although he promised that "only communities can grant permission" to build pipelines, he now realizes that achieving unanimous consensus was unlikely to ever happen. He also dismissed suggestions that pipeline approvals are at odds with plans to reduce carbon emissions and transition Canada to a "low carbon" economy. The Prime Minister also reiterated (several times) that pipelines are much safer than rail, and that expanding oil production out of Alberta was very likely to increase crude-by-rail volumes.

The PM also reminded reporters that his government now has a social licence to approve pipelines. Since elected to office, the Liberals has implemented hefty carbon taxes, phased out coal power, boosted marine safety and committed billions towards renewable energy and GHG reductions. It remains to be seen whether any of that makes a difference.

US adds another 20 million barrels of crude oil storage capacity

US adds another 20 million barrels of crude oil storage capacity

Spotting the "green shoots" in Alberta's economy

Spotting the "green shoots" in Alberta's economy

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