The pipeline company behind the proposed Trans Mountain expansion from Alberta to the West Coast says the B.C. Liberals' electoral victory this month is a "pro-economy, jobs and investment" result, and provides greater clarity as to what conditions the company must meet in order to get shovels in the ground.
Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said when he heard the Clark Liberals had won on May 14, "what I felt is we had a greater clarity of what those conditions were and what the interests were that we were facing in British Columbia."
Speaking to reporters after a panel discussion with Mr. Anderson in Calgary on Thursday, Vern Yu of Enbridge Inc. – the proponent of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project – also said he believes the B.C. Liberals under Christy Clark have a more firm idea "of what's necessary to get the project across the finish line" than their NDP challengers.
Both pipeline companies are keen to take advantage of what is burgeoning demand to ship growing volumes of Alberta bitumen to foreign buyers. But the rush to markets from the West Coast has been impeded by concerns about the environmental consequences of spills or an increased number of supertankers travelling from B.C. ports.
Kinder Morgan plans to spend about $5.4-billion to twin its existing 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline from just east of Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., bumping capacity to nearly 900,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude from the current 300,000. The company will file its facilities application to the National Energy Board this year.
During the B.C. election campaign, presumed frontrunner Adrian Dix announced an NDP government under his leadership would oppose the twinning of the Trans Mountain line. Expressing the concern of some Lower Mainland voters, Mr. Dix said the additional capacity to move oil – even within the existing right-of-way corridor – still raises environmental concerns about increased tanker traffic in and out of the company's Burnaby terminal on Burrard Inlet's shores.
For her part, Premier Christy Clark instead laid out five immovable conditions for any new heavy oil supplies crossing B.C. territory, including First Nations consultation, better marine oil spill prevention and that B.C. receive "its fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits." The B.C. government does not have the final word on pipeline approvals but could block projects by actions such as refusing to issue permits. Ms. Clark has not stated clearly which if any heavy oil pipeline projects her government will support.
Mr. Anderson characterized the Clark win as a "pro-economy, jobs and investment in B.C." electoral outcome, and added that Kinder Morgan intends to satisfy all five of the Liberal conditions. He said the company has held hundreds of meetings with municipalities and interested communities, including First Nations.
The Trans Mountain expansion has been presumed to be easier to execute than the most controversial pipeline project in B.C., Enbridge's Northern Gateway. If built, the Northern Gateway project would run from Alberta to the coastal community of Kitimat, where diluted bitumen would be loaded onto tankers to make their way through winding waterways to the open Pacific. Speaking at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce event on Thursday, Mr. Yu said the company had been prepared to work with any government that took the reins of government in B.C.
"But it does appear that [Ms. Clark's] government has formed more of an opinion of what's necessary to get the project across the finish line than perhaps the NDP would have," Mr. Yu told reporters.
He also said "we're well on our way to meeting three of five of those conditions, and we look forward to sitting down with her government to address those last two."
Both companies say now that the election is done, they're hoping to meet with the Clark government on their respective proposals.