Alberta will step up its presence in the United States over the coming weeks as the province tries to shore up political and public support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project ahead of the presidential election.
Construction on the Alberta leg of the long-delayed 2,000-kilometre pipeline began on Friday in the small community of Oyen, about 40 kilometres west of the province’s boundary with Saskatchewan. Keystone XL, owned by TC Energy Corp. and recently given a $1.5-billion investment injection by the Alberta government, will stretch from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., where it will connect with existing facilities to deliver oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The project has faced 12 years of delays, and continues to be challenged in court. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney acknowledged on Friday that it will no doubt face more “political and legal bumps along the road,” but said his government “will leave no stone unturned” in Canada or the United States to ensure it is completed.
“We will not flag. We will not relent. We will get this job done,” he said.
Mr. Kenney also wants the Canadian government to step up communications with the United States and underscore the importance of pipeline-transported oil to the trade relationship between the two countries, particularly as Americans gear up for a presidential election in which the presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has said he would cancel the Keystone XL permit.
“It would be a terrible blow to this important strategic friendship, this trading relationship, and this alliance for any U.S. administration to cancel the project in which billions of dollars have already been invested,” Mr. Kenney said.
Alberta has already been in touch with Mr. Biden’s campaign team to make the case for Keystone XL, Mr. Kenney said, and is enlisting the help of unions south of the border to try to promote the message that the project is crucial for jobs and the economy, as well as U.S. energy security.
The Alberta government has “taken a conscious risk” to get construction started, Mr. Kenney said, adding he looks forward to working with political leaders in the United States who support the project. The province has already installed former Conservative MP James Rajotte in Washington as its new trade envoy, and will open a trade office in Houston in the coming weeks.
“We’re also looking at further expanding our network of permanent offices in the United States and other key markets to engage more decision makers and more business leaders,” Mr. Kenney said.
When it comes to legal challenges of Keystone XL in the United States, Mr. Kenney said his government would use every tool at its disposal to defend the project. That includes submitting amicus curiae briefs, which are similar to gaining intervenor status in the Canadian court system.
As Alberta wrestles with emerging from a fiscal hit caused by crushingly low oil prices and demand, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting global economic tumble, Mr. Kenney said Keystone XL is crucial to creating jobs in the province.
TC Energy estimates the project will put thousands of people to work along the route, including in Oyen, where the population is expected to double to 2,000 at the peak of construction.
Contractors started construction on five pipeline pump stations in Alberta earlier this summer. Over the next three years, workers will build and commission nearly 270 kilometres of pipeline across Alberta alone, much of which will be engineered, planned and managed from TC Energy offices in the province.
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