TransCanada Tries to Offload Majority Share of Coastal GasLink Pipeline
TransCanada Corporation is trying to sell off a majority share of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the controversial, C$6.2-billion project that has faced sustained opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in northwestern British Columbia.
The company has brought in RBC Capital Markets to manage the sale, and members of the First Nations LNG Alliance are expressing interest in buying in.
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“Third-party joint venture partners could acquire up to 75% of CGL LP interests,” Coastal GasLink said in a January 25 filing with the National Energy Board (NEB). “Assuming a transaction proceeds, one or more arm’s-length third parties will hold the majority of the equity.”
The pipeline received regulatory approval from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office in 2014. But the Globe and Mail notes the NEB is about to consider arguments from Smithers, B.C. resident Mike Sawyer that the project should fall under federal jurisdiction, despite what TransCanada claims was a “robust”, two-year provincial review.
Although the pipeline “is set to be built entirely within B.C.—which would usually put it under the jurisdiction of the province—the pipeline, which would supply the LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat, connects to an existing pipeline system that is federally regulated,” The Narwhal reported in a profile of Sawyer last October. “Also, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TransCanada Pipeline Ltd., which means under the Constitution Act the pipeline is within federal jurisdiction and should be regulated by the National Energy Board, Sawyer says in an application to the board.”
The Globe reports that TransCanada “declined on Monday to explain its motivation, but the move aligns with the company’s shifting focus away from Canada and the possibility that First Nations could buy into the pipeline project and help overcome construction delays.”
“Any advancement that we could make to have a social impact on our communities is possible,” said Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, adding that economic spin-offs from the project would help reduce poverty in Indigenous communities along the pipeline route.
“Project agreements in support of Coastal GasLink have been signed with all 20 elected band councils along the route,” Coastal GasLink said in its NEB filing. “$620 million in contracts have been awarded to Indigenous communities, and CGL anticipates further opportunities for Indigenous and local businesses valued at approximately $400 million. Payment under these contracts is dependent upon the continuation of construction.”
Bill Gallagher, described by the Globe as a lawyer who “examines conflicts between First Nations and energy developers,” cited the Unist’ot’en blockade as the latest example of Canada’s inability to complete resource projects. “Elected bands will probably want somewhere totalling a 10% stake as an entry level, and being native co-owners would give a good housekeeping seal of approval from them,” he said.