Divisive bills raise odds in Canada for Trans Mountain nod

Jun 17th, 2019

Two bills making the oil and gas industry anxious have survived in the Canadian Senate—one less damaging than its original version and one not.

Prospects thus rise that they’ll become law and that the federal government will approve expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline between Alberta and British Columbia.

Officials and industry leaders in oil-producing Alberta and Saskatchewan had hoped Bills C-69 and C-48 would die in the Senate. A heavily amended C-69, which overhauls federal environmental review, now returns to the House of Commons. In original form, it would have made approvals very difficult to obtain for large energy projects.

But senators accepted more than 180 amendments proposed by industry groups and the Alberta government.

Bill C-48, which would block oil tanker traffic off northern BC, dodged a recommendation that it be scrapped.

This step toward enactment agitated separatist feelings already aroused in Alberta and Saskatchewan by bills seen as unfairly targeting bitumen and heavy oil.

“I urge the Senate to reconsider the negative impact this bill will have on national unity at debate on third reading,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement. He promised a constitutional challenge if the bill becomes law.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might see approval of Trans Mountain expansion as propitiation.

His government bought the existing 300,000 b/d Trans Mountain system in May 2018 from Kinder Morgan and took over the stalled 590,000 b/d expansion project.

It then started a new environmental review, a ruling from which is due June 18 after a month’s delay. If approved, the project still would face fierce opposition in BC.

Partly for that reason, federal approval of Trans Mountain expansion probably wouldn’t appease the oil-producing provinces if Bills C-48 and C-69 became law.

As Kenney hinted, many people in Alberta and Saskatchewan feel punished by Ottawa. Especially if, on return to the House, C-69 reacquires any of its original hostility toward pipelines, Trans Mountain will be dismissed as a futile sop—and deservedly so.

(From the subscription area of www.ogj.com, posted June 7, 2019. To comment, join the Commentary channel at www.ogj.com/oilandgascommunity.)

More in Editor's Perspective