Canada nixes controversial-bill overhaul

Industry groups warned of further damage to Canadian oil and gas investment after federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna rejected most amendments made in the Senate to a bill overhauling environmental review of energy projects.

Industry groups warned of further damage to Canadian oil and gas investment after federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna rejected most amendments made in the Senate to a bill overhauling environmental review of energy projects.

Telling the House of Commons that opponents of Bill C-69 “would pursue economic development at all costs and put the interest of oil lobbyists ahead of the interest of Canadians,” McKenna on Jan. 12 accepted 62 of 187 Senate amendments and modified 37. The amendments had been proposed by industry groups and officials of oil-producing Alberta and Saskatchewan, who argue that the original Bill C-69 would concentrate decision-making in the federal government and make major energy projects very difficult to survive environmental opposition.

They don’t believe amendments accepted by McKenna would improve the original enough.

“If Bill C-69 passes in its current form, it is difficult to imagine that any major new pipeline projects will be proposed or built in the future,” Canadian Energy Pipeline Association Pres. and Chief Executive Officer Chris Bloomer said after McKenna’s decision.

Bitumen and heavy oil producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan need new pipeline capacity to expand their access to international markets. Transport bottlenecks now slash oil values at points of production, discouraging investment and lowering provincial revenues.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the federal government was “ignoring the Senate and the will of Canadians, risking the country’s economic future” by rejecting the amendments package.

“Bill C-69 creates a system that allows for indefinite project delays and the continued stagnation of major projects that will drive even more investment out of Canada,” CAPP said in a statement.

In an annual report published on June 13, CAPP predicted capital investment in Canadian oil sands projects in 2019 will be down for the fifth straight year, falling to $12 billion (Can.) from $33.9 billion in 2014.

Earlier, Conservative premiers of five provinces sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a letter warning that enactment of an unamended Bill C-69 and of Bill C-48, which would block tanker traffic off northern British Columbia, would threaten national unity.

Bill C-69 will be returned to the Senate.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has promised to challenge the bill on constitutional grounds if it is passed.

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