HARDISTY, Alta. – The mayor of the southeast Alberta community where the Keystone XL pipeline would begin says news that TransCanada Corp. has asked the U.S. government to temporarily suspend its application comes as a blow.
Anita Miller calls the move “really unfortunate” and says it’s going to affect “lots and lots of people” in Hardisty, Alta., particularly in support businesses such as gas stations, hotels and restaurants.
But she adds Keystone is not the only game in town. While activity has slowed down, there is still construction and expansion in the Hardisty area’s oil and natural gas industry.
TransCanada (TSX:TRP) is just one of nine oil companies working in and around the town, which has 700 permanent residents along with 250 oil industry workers, although that number used to be 500 when oil prices were high.
Premier Rachel Notley said her focus is on building relationships to promote projects “that have the best chance at success.” She said her government wants to improve the province’s environmental record to build support for Alberta products in overseas markets not open at the moment.
“This is a move over which we have no control,” she said Tuesday. “What our government can do to increase the likelihood that our product will earn the social licence that is needed for us to get it to that all-important tidewater … is for us to improve our record on the environment.”
Notley said she is going to the global climate change conference in Paris at the end of the month with her government’s new plan to reduce greenhouse gases.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who has long supported Keystone, said it’s more important than ever to get a pipeline built to move oil to Canadian ports for shipment overseas.
“This really highlights the importance of Energy East,” he said Tuesday. “Because we know Gateway (to the B.C. coast) is not going to happen. It doesn’t have the support even of the Alberta government.”
Without another pipeline, there would be no choice but to move more oil by rail, despite the potential consequences, Wall said.
“That means higher greenhouse gas emissions to move that oil,” he said. “We know there are safety issues. Lac Magnetic is a very tragic example of that.
“And we also know that there’s a greater chance for more severe spills with respect to rail carrying oil than there is for a pipeline.”
Keystone XL would carry crude oil along a 1,897-kilometre pipeline from Hardisty to Steele City, Neb., where it would link up with other pipelines that run to the Gulf Coast and the Midwest.
It would carry an average of 830,000 barrels of oil a day to U.S. refineries. Proponents have long suggested it would lessen American reliance on oil from the Mideast while creating thousands of jobs. But opponents have argued it would be an environmental disaster and have suggested its economic impact has been overstated.
Earlier this year, the State Department put off its decision on the pipeline, pending the outcome of a court fight in Nebraska over the proposed route.
A spokesman for President Barack Obama said Tuesday the administration is still evaluating TransCanada’s request for a suspension and an answer will come from the State Department.
— With files from Jennifer Graham in Regina and Dean Bennett in Edmonton