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Alberta’s carbon tax bringing Canada closer to new pipeline, Notley says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has expressed support for three proposed pipelines that would link Alberta’s oil sands to the east and west coasts.

JASON FRANSON

Canadians are closer to seeing a new pipeline built in this country than at any point in the past year, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said on Tuesday, days before she marks her first year in office.

The Premier has expressed support in recent weeks for three proposed pipelines that would link Alberta's oil sands to the Atlantic Ocean, northern B.C.'s Pacific coast and an export terminal near Vancouver. One of those projects, the Northern Gateway pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C., had seemed stalled before Ms. Notley told The Globe and Mail last week that she was dropping her opposition.

On Tuesday, she said that Canada was "absolutely" closer to a new pipeline due to her province's new carbon tax.

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Responding to Ms. Notley's remarks, federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr agreed: "By virtue of the fact that there's more certainty and clocks are ticking on approval processes, we are closer to a decision, that's true," he said.

Along with stricter climate rules in Alberta, Ms. Notley said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet better understands the importance of building pipelines for Canada's economy. She said that includes accepting her view that the environment can be protected while also building new energy infrastructure.

"I think their understanding of the relatedness of the health of Alberta's energy industry to the health of the national economy has grown," she said on Tuesday from the provincial legislature in Edmonton.

Ms. Notley will bring a similar message to Washington on Wednesday, when she intends to tell American officials and opinion makers that Alberta has changed. With a new economy-wide carbon tax taking effect next year and a legislated cap on the size of carbon emissions from the oil sands, she said U.S. groups need to revisit opposition to the province's energy sector.

"Alberta is not the Alberta that they thought of a year ago, or two years ago, or three years ago," she said. "After years of inaction from the previous government, Alberta is now at the forefront in the fight against climate change."

Echoing the growing optimism in Alberta, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said in an interview that he believes the national discussion has turned in favour of building new pipelines. He said he is looking for a clear answer in 2016 on which projects will be built.

"My sense is that the federal government has created enough due process around additional environmental review and consultation that they will be well situated to give cabinet approval for these projects," he said on Monday, speaking from City Hall.

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"I think that the [National Energy Board] is likely to say that the pending projects should go ahead."

Petroleum Services Association of Canada CEO Mark Salkeld said he believes there's real progress in the push to get new pipelines built, and he believes the federal government is taking the lead.

"We're trying to eliminate this parochialism, you know, between the provinces," he told reporters on Tuesday. "The federal government, in my mind, is stepping up to the plate and creating those conversations that we weren't having before."

On Tuesday, Mr. Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna met with Mr. Salkeld's industry group, which represents oilfield service companies – a sector that has been hard hit by the oil price drop that began in the summer of 2014.

Mr. Carr said the federal Liberal government believes economic growth and environmental sustainability is one conversation. But the government also has an understanding that a transition to green infrastructure and technology "will not happen overnight."

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