SAINT JOHN – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says Energy East can still be built if the federal government and the provinces make potential investors feel confident that it’s a viable investment once again.
“The major pipeline companies have an open mind about an East Coast pipeline but only if there’s a clear shot at getting it done. They can’t do it with regulatory uncertainty that killed Energy East in 2017,” Kenney said at a breakfast talk organized by the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
The first barrier, Kenney says, is Bill C-69, which opponents like Kenney have taken to calling the “no more pipelines law.”
Bill C-69 is meant to improve the way major energy and transportation projects are evaluated for their environmental impact, making the assessments more stringent so they’re less likely to be challenged in court.
The Liberals, who introduced it, say lax assessments are why so few big projects, and no new oil pipelines, have been approved in Canada in years — they’ve been tied up in challenges.
Kenney says the process laid out in Bill C-69 would keep important projects from getting past the assessment stage.
“If that is passed in its current form, then no proponent is going to come to the table,” Kenney told reporters after his speech. “I have assurances from the industry that they would, in principle, pursue a sequel to Energy East but we’ve got to get regulatory certainty. But they’re not going to come to the table and risk [up to] $10-billion only to get stymied by new regulations from Ottawa.”
Kenney wouldn’t say if TransCanada has told him they’d revisit the project if investment conditions became more favourable again.
“I’m not going to reveal details of private conversations but let me put it this way. TransCanada didn’t spend $1-billion in six years on that project on a whim,” he said. “They thought the economics would work but when the federal government changed the regulatory parameters halfway through, they said this creates too much uncertainty, we can’t continue.”
There are other potential pipeline projects that could help get Alberta oil to domestic and foreign markets, but Kenney says there is still a need for Energy East.
“We need multiple pipelines, not just one,” said Kenney. “One pipeline doesn’t get us the kind of certainty and diversity of markets that we need for Canadian energy. I will continue to fight relentlessly for the dream of Energy East, partly because it can help us get energy independence.”
“It’s not right that Eastern Canadians have to buy foreign oil, some of it dictator oil. I know that eastern Canadians would prefer to keep their money in Canada so we can help every part of the country, so Energy East will continue to be a priority for the Alberta government even if we get the TransMountain pipeline built.”
Premier Blaine Higgs is a proponent of Energy East, of course, but his attention has shifted to the idea of an “energy corridor” that he and federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer have been advancing of late.
“The focus has to be on the national corridor,” said Higgs to reporters after Kenney’s speech. “It’s a longer-term vision of uniting the country and having this corridor that allows this unrestricted use that’s already pre-approved – whether it be gas, oil, electrical transmission, communications, whatever it might be. Then it connects the country like the railway once did.
“It’s not about any specific project at this point. It’s having the access here. [New Brunswick has] been a stranded asset that’s had to fight its way to get connected. Let’s not lose sight of something that can bind our country together for the long haul, and have an economic development corridor as our long-term vision.”