Canada On Track to Re-Approve Trans Mountain, But Northern Gateway Restart Looks Unlikely
Canada is likely to re-approve the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, but a resurrection of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline plan is not in the cards, according to two separate news reports this week.
Bloomberg News cites anonymous “officials familiar with the matter” in its report that “the government is likely to proceed with the expansion” as the June 18 deadline for a decision on Trans Mountain approaches.
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“While the government will likely move forward, it’s possible but unlikely it could again extend the deadline to allow for more consultation,” the news agency adds. “The government almost certainly won’t flat-out abandon the expansion that day, the officials said. Trudeau’s cabinet will meet the morning of June 18 and is expected to make its decision then.”
So far, Ottawa “has made no secret about its interest in finding a way to expand the conduit, but has tiptoed around the matter to avoid opening any decision up to legal challenges that have already delayed the project—and things remain fluid as consultations continue,” Bloomberg notes.
“The only way to do it is to do it responsibly, and that’s what we’re doing. The need for it, and the national interest, is clear,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said April 30. But rushing the consultation process “would be a guarantee you would continually be bogged down in the courts for the years to come.”
“We have been clear that a decision on the proposed Trans Mountain expansion project will only be made once we are satisfied that we have met our duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous groups, where appropriate,” added Alexandre Deslongchamps, a spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi. “We know how important this process is to Canadians. We are working each day to get it right.”
On that note, Bloomberg points to the tense political calculations that could underpin the cabinet decision. “The pipeline is popular in Alberta, where [Trudeau] has little hope of any gains in this year’s election, while it’s decidedly more controversial in British Columbia, a key electoral region,” writes correspondent Josh Wingrove. “Building the pipeline may burnish Trudeau’s economic record but could also potentially alienate voters, particularly as polls show him bleeding support to the Green Party.”
While Trans Mountain continues to occupy centre stage, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco put a damper on the new Alberta government’s hope of getting the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline back on track.
“I think it’s probably sailed,” Monaco told media, on the sidelines of his company’s annual meeting. “The first thing you need with something like that is commercial support, and I think at this point, just given where the basin is and the other projects that are in the queue, if you will, it would be tough to see that getting restarted at this point.”
Monaco added that Northern Gateway would probably have to go back to the beginning of the regulatory process in light of the time that has passed since it received initial approval from the National Energy Board.