Premier Rachel Notley said her main message to the federal government’s Trans Mountain Review Panel that is in Edmonton is that pipelines are vital to improving Canada’s economy, and that judging a pipeline itself for green house gas emissions isn’t the whole story.
“This particular pipeline application ought to be considered on its individual merits, not as a symbol of the much larger issue,” Notley said to reporters after her session with the three-member panel. Alberta’s climate plan will cap oilsands emissions to 100 megatonnes and phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030.
“Alberta has done its homework, our plan has put a limit on it.”
“Pipeline, rail, it doesn’t really matter there is a limit. So the pipeline refusal ought not to be seen as a mechanism of dealing with emissions management.”
Texas-based energy infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan is seeking federal approval to expand the existing Trans Mountain line in order to triple the capacity of diluted bitumen travelling from Alberta’s oilsands to Burnaby B.C. It would expand tanker traffic at the port about seven-fold.
Ottawa struck the review panel to further assess the environmental risks and to ensure that indigenous groups and others affected by the line have been consulted. The project has faced heated opposition from environmentalists, politicians, and indigenous groups in B.C. worried about the environmental impacts and the dangers of spills.
However Notley said the game changer this time is Alberta’s restrictions on the oil sands. “It’s something that perhaps didn’t feature as much in previous review but that I think is probably important to some people in the lower mainland that are concerned about climate change.”
Notley’s other message is on the need to build Canada’s economy, which getting the product to the coast will do. With out pipeline expansion Notley said, other means like rail will continue to grow, which is not as economically feasible and does more damage to the environment
“Our hope is that the federal government will see the merits of that. All we can do is continue to have the discussions we have been and to talk more and more about our work on the climate change leadership plan which I believe will be helpful.”
The federal regulator, the National Energy Board, OK’d the project last month after two years of hearings and research, saying the ultimate benefit to Canadians outweighs the potential problems.
The three-member panel can’t overrule the board’s decision but its comments will be used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in making its final decision.
(sj-with files from the Canadian Press)