EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she will head to British Columbia as early as next week to make the case for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“It’s really important for me to be able to go out there and say to those people who link the pipeline to the issue of climate change and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that, in fact, our climate change leadership plan has very effectively delinked those issues,” Notley said Wednesday in a conference call from Ottawa.
The new pipeline will be safer than moving oil by rail, she said.
“It increases the return for Albertans — and frankly all Canadians — but it doesn’t increase the volume (of greenhouse gas emissions).”
Notley’s government is making changes to environmental, electrical and tax rules to reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions and move toward renewable energy sources.
A bill now before the legislature caps total oilsands emissions at 100 megatonnes a year. The current emissions are about two-thirds that.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal approval of Trans Mountain on Tuesday and said it would not have been possible without Alberta’s plan. Trudeau also approved the replacement of an aging Enbridge line from Alberta to Wisconsin, but rejected the proposed Northern Gateway line from Alberta through northwestern B.C.
Trans Mountain still has to clear regulatory hurdles and faces stiff opposition in B.C. from environmentalists, First Nations and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
In B.C. Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark said Ottawa is close to meeting her government’s five conditions for its approval of the pipeline, but she wants more assurances on spill response, jobs and economic benefits for her province.
The pipeline is expected to be a key issue in May’s B.C. election and potentially puts Notley at odds with her NDP colleagues as they challenge Clark’s Liberal government.
Notley said she is ready for the debate.
“They’re tough conversations, but … the values that drive me as a New Democrat are both the need to make real progress on protecting our environment, but to do so in a respectful way to the working people.”
It was at times a rocky path for Notley and Trudeau, who were in Ottawa for Tuesday’s announcement.
Last month, Notley announced she would not go along with Trudeau’s plan for an escalating floor price on carbon that would reach $50 a tonne by 2022.
Alberta’s plan tops out at $30 a tonne, and Notley said then she didn’t know how her province would meet the federal goal without action on pipelines.
She said she’s now on side with the $50 price, but added it is still linked to progress on projects such as Trans Mountain. The $6.8-billion project would triple the capacity of an existing line to take crude from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
Alberta is in the midst of a prolonged slump in oil prices that has led to thousands of job losses and a budget deficit this year pegged at $10.8 billion.
The issue dominated a noisy, raucous question period in Alberta’s legislature Wednesday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a question period than I am for the one today,” said deputy premier Sarah Hoffman to cheers. “Because of the leadership of this government, Alberta did see two new pipeline approvals.”
Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean downplayed the possibility of Trans Mountain ever getting done.
“We’ve seen pipelines approved in the past only to be tied up in legal battles by special interest groups,” he said.
Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver warned any financial benefit from Trans Mountain will be wiped out by interest payments on a rising provincial debtload expected to reach $58 billion by decade’s end.