INTERVIEW: Rachel Notley pitches pipeline benefits for B.C.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says there is lots of economic benefit to Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, no increase in greenhouse gases

  • Dec. 5, 2016 7:00 p.m.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has adopted her own jobs plan theme to deal with a struggling resource economy

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is in Vancouver this week to promote Kinder Morgan Canada’s plan to twin the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from her home region of Strathcona County near Edmonton to its Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. She spoke with B.C. legislature reporter Tom Fletcher. Here is an edited transcript of the discussion.

TF: What’s your message for B.C. on the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

RN: I think it demonstrates that we can move forward with responsible environmental protection while at the same time preserving the rights of BCers, Albertans, Canadians to earn a decent living and to support their families without being asked to choose between the two.

There’s a lot of work that’s been done by the federal government as well as our government on environmental protection.

And I think there are very strong arguments for how Kinder Morgan is in the best national economic interests of Canadians as well as Albertans and BCers. It provides tremendous opportunities for job creation, and that’s something I think we all need right now.

TF: What’s the impact of this pipeline on the country’s climate change targets?

RN: That’s a really good question, because one of the things people don’t understand is there is no impact. One of the fundamental components of our climate change leadership plan is that we’re legislating an emissions cap on oil sands emissions.

What that means is that production will continue. Most of the investment had already been in place for that, but it will go to the cap, which is 100 megatons [of carbon dioxide equivalent]. That would happen with or without Kinder Morgan.

The difference that Kinder Morgan adds to the equation is that we get a better return for that product. It’s about economics. It’s not about increasing volumes, it’s not about increasing emissions.

TF: One of Premier Christy Clark’s stated conditions is a “fair share” of benefits from B.C. Obviously there is construction activity and tax revenue for B.C. Shouldn’t that be enough?

RN: Those are important things, and I think any government in B.C. is taking due notice of those matters, because there are something like 38,000 person-years of employment, not to mention roughly a billion-dollar bump to B.C.’s GDP from Kinder Morgan.

But in terms of additional benefits that Premier Clark has identified, these are matters that I understand she is negotiating with Kinder Morgan directly. I believe they’re making progress, but in terms of the substance of them, I’m going to leave that to them to talk about.

TF: Former premier Alison Redford was emphatic there would be no sharing of Alberta’s resource royalties. Do you agree?

RN: Indeed. We’re certainly not looking at changing that model or creating precedents that would somehow challenge constitutional divisions of authority, responsibility and benefits. But certainly Kinder Morgan has engaged in conversations with the province of B.C., and we wish them luck as they move forward to agreement.

TF: There’s talk here of a trade-off, where B.C. accepts the pipeline and ships more hydro power to Alberta. Any comment on that?

RN: Just to say there is no formal or informal trade-off on that matter. Premier Clark has floated that issue, almost a year ago now. Our government’s been most focused on, obviously the issue of Kinder Morgan, and also our own climate change leadership plan, and coming up with our own market-based strategy to meet our renewable energy targets as we move off of coal.

That being said, we know the federal government is interested in having conversations about energy infrastructure that might impact hydroelectricity transmission, and certainly down in southeast B.C. and southwest Alberta, there is work that’s actually underway around inter-ties, so that’s good. But we haven’t had any specific conversations in the last year or so related to this project.

TF: This pipeline has carried diluted bitumen off and on since the 1980s when the product became available. Do you think people have an adequate understanding of that?

RN: I won’t say what’s adequate or not adequate. What I will say is that we have a long-standing history of Kinder Morgan having transported a variety of product down this pipeline successfully, through B.C.

And we know that ultimately what we’re talking about is a six per cent increase in the amount of commercial shipping traffic out of the [Vancouver] port. And quite frankly that is a rate of increase that is not out of line with what happens anyway, with other types of products that are being shipped.

People often talk about the seven-fold increase in traffic, and I think what happens is that people get confused between the impact of that particular type of tanker versus the impact of the overall traffic, and it’s a relatively small impact.

TF: I’ve asked Premier Clark why she is trying to impose conditions on a project over which the province doesn’t have much, if any, jurisdiction. Should you be expected to play along with that?

RN: Every province approaches their internal environmental responsibilities differently. I think there is appropriate constitutional jurisdiction to be asserted by the provinces around particular internal pieces where the environment is implicated, like river crossings and things like that. And so they’re going to do what they’re going to do.

I wouldn’t call it playing along. I just think it’s important to have a constructive dialogue, to be more focused on finding solutions than tweeting angry insults across the continent at one another. So I think that’s the way you get to positive outcomes that build the country as a whole.

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