By Nikki Jamieson
Although the pipeline approvals weren’t much of a surprise, according to Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider the were still welcome news.
“I think it’s kind of been in the works. It’s been something that politicians have been watching and waiting for — we (Wildrose opposition) certainly haven’t been saying anything, and neither has the NDP government,” said Schneider.
“A lot of trips back and forth to Ottawa for the premier. We jumped ahead of the rest of the country as far as the carbon tax, so the price on carbon, and got one created before the Liberal government, who has now created one for the rest of the country. So they all go hand in hand, so something was going to come, we could see that.”
The twinning of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the approval of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline will raise the pipeline capacity by 1,000,000 barrels a day. Although the approval of these two pipelines was good news, the Northern Gateway pipeline that was rejected was the preferred pipeline Schneider said oil producers wanted to see.
“You got to take what you can get I guess, and you can’t be too critical. But, once you have a pipeline approved, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s built.”
Schneider points out that there are two people who sit on the Oil Sands Advisory Group for the Alberta government — Tzeporah Berman and Karen Mahon — who are “radical, anti-Alberta people”. Both have voiced their opposition to pipelines, and have run afoul of the Wildrose opposition, to the point where Wildrose Leader Brian Jean has called for Berman, Mahon and a third member of the advisory group, Tim Gray, to be reprimanded and fired for speaking out against the pipeline projects, saying in a press release that chief oil sands advisors can’t be “publicly declaring war” on the pipeline projects.
Although the pipeline approvals have been welcomed by many Albertans, protests have sprung up in the wake of the news against the pipelines, with Green Party leader Elizabeth May vowing to go to jail to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline from being built.
“I think everybody knows there’s going to be huge amounts of obstacles, and that includes the two that sit on Alberta’s own Oil Sands Advisory Group. These people advise the government on oilsands and what to do with it, they really want to see the oil locked in the ground. They’re going to be very vocal, they’re going to go to the courts, there could be legal challenges, there could be protestors. I think everybody expects this too — which is kind of funny — but what we really need, as far as Alberta goes, is shovels in the ground. We need these jobs to start happening. We’re suffering here because of low oil prices for one thing, but we have an opportunity to get some more oil out of province.”
Although there are a lot of conditions on the pipelines to meet before they can start construction — Enbridge Line 3 has to meet 89 conditions while Kinder Morgan must meet 157 —there is some hope that it could help the sagging Alberta economy to get kick started again.
The one pipeline that did not get approved, Enbridge Northern Gateway, had been previously approved by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The decision was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal, who found that consultations with FNMI groups had been inadequate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision on Nov. 29 put “a nail in the coffin for that project”.
However, the two approvals are still a good sign for Alberta. With president-elect Donald Trump’s interest in potentially going forward with the Keystone XL pipeline — even though the pipeline was rejected by the Obama administration in 2015 — it would lead to a huge increase in capacity to get Alberta oil to markets.
But one thing that might hinder production though is Bill 25, the Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act. Having passed second reading and currently before the committee of the whole, the act would place a higher cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands, but Schneider has no idea where they came up with the 100-megaton cap. In his eyes, the cap would cut jobs and royalties.
“I don’t know where the (100) megaton cap came from, nobody will answer that, I don’t know where they came up with that number,” said Schneider.
“Capping oil sands emissions in Alberta and capping emissions on upgrading will likely keep Alberta oil in the ground. And at the end of the day, a different jurisdiction will fill the requirement of oil for areas all over the world. Those jurisdictions may not be as environmentally aware as we in Alberta are. We will lose out. We will not see our potential. Carbon will leak. The oil sands is a gift that every other province in Canada wishes it had.”
According to federal statistics, the oil sands produce 9.3 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions, and 0.13 per cent of the world’s GHG emissions. Alberta emits 273.8 megatons of GHG, making the province the highest GHG emitter in Canada, in part due to it’s significant oil and gas industry, and the oil sands currently emit 66 megatons of GHG emissions. The 100 megaton cap would allow the oil sands to nearly double in size at their current GHG emission rate.