Canada improving regulatory climate for Arctic pipelines

The Canadian government is working to improve the transparency of its regulatory environment so that industry can make informed decisions on investments to move Arctic natural gas to southern markets.


CALGARY�The Canadian government is working to improve the transparency of its regulatory environment so that industry can make informed decisions on investments to move Arctic natural gas to southern markets.

Dennis Wallace, federal associate minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, said the government wants to provide certainty to developers making multi-billion-dollar decisions. He said companies are looking for certainty on the regulatory and environmental assessment processes and on the fiscal and royalty framework.

Wallace said the federal government believes gas in the Alaska North Slope and Mackenzie Delta/Beaufort Sea regions will be developed.

He told delegates at a Ziff Energy conference in Calgary that industry is questioning whether the federal government is prepared to respond effectively and in a timely way to major oil and gas developments in the North.

�I want to assure you that the federal government understands your concerns, that we are listening, that we will respond, and that we will be ready,� he said.

Wallace said Ottawa is coordinating the efforts of involved departments and agencies and has formed a task force to examine major development issues. He said efforts are being made to involve other governments and stakeholders in the process and to provide a clear regulatory window for industry to work with.

He said the public attitude in Canada�s north is now vastly different than it was 25 years ago, when public opposition and poor economics scuttled ambitious plans for arctic gas development. Now, he said, the aboriginal and other northern residents support developments that allow them to participate with equity investment and employment.

An example is creation of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group to represent aboriginal interests in development. Wallace said that many aboriginal land claims, which were a stumbling block several decades ago, have been settled by Ottawa and native groups. And these groups now have much greater control of land, resources, and the environmental and regulatory process.

Wallace noted that 20 years ago Canada approved the Alaska Highway Pipeline Project to build a line from Prudhoe Bay via the Yukon to Alberta, and that the right-of-way permit is still valid. He said Canada will meet its commitments to that project, as presently constituted, if developers should chose that route.

Wallace said industry will ultimately decide whether to develop Arctic gas resources and the government's role is to ensure the right climate for timely pipeline decisions while preserving the public interest.

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