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Glimmers of hope on pipelines

From Premier Notley, Prime Minister Trudeau and NEB

 After years of fighting against the tide, mid-April started to show the first signs of promise for Canada’s beleaguered pipeline industry.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley seems to have found religion, and that religion is steel pipe. A $10 billion deficit will do that for you, apparently. She’s been pushing hard on TransCanada’s Energy East, and may have even warmed up to the Enbridge Northern Gateway.

Northern Gateway, which has National Energy Board approval, appears stillborn right now as the Trudeau government has promised a moratorium on oil tankers off the northern British Columbia coast. But even on that front, we may have received a few glimmers of hope from the federal government that all is not lost.

Enbridge has apparently been looking at alternatives to Kitimat as its delivery point for Northern Gateway. Any change would, of course, result in a new regulatory review. But Kitimat or bust seems to lead to bust, so it would be good if they considered other options. As we’ve noted editorially before, any prairie boy with five minutes on Google Maps can see Prince Rupert, with its near instant access to open ocean, is a much better idea than tying a tanker to a tugboat and running it down the long, narrow Douglas Channel. Enbridge deciding to switch to Prince Rupert could be the very thing to revive this near-dead, yet approved, project.

Indeed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may, too, have found religion on pipelines. It seems when you’re looking at budget deficits to the tune of $29.4 billion per year, all of a sudden pipelines, and the growth they allow, and the diversified markets they will beget, start to make sense. Funny, that.

On April 25, the National Energy Board approved Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement. This project would be the biggest one Saskatchewan would see in a generation. The last major pipeline project in Saskatchewan was Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper in 2008-2009. After Line 3 is replaced, it might be the last major project for another 8 or so years, perhaps until Enbridge or TransCanada start retiring and replacing some of their other lines that will be old enough to start
collecting CPP.

In a few weeks time, we should also hear what the NEB has to say about the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion project. The sensible folks that they are, the NEB will likely be in favour of that project, too.

So now, we just need to get building these projects. The long-awaited boom time for pipeliners could, hopefully, be at hand. But we’ve heard that before. Line 3 Replacement was supposed to fire up this summer. Energy East was supposed to be in service by 2018.

We’ll be waiting with bated breath. Hopefully the industry doesn’t run out of oxygen in the meantime.