CLARE CLANCY ‘I am ready and prepared to turn off the taps’: Notley
Bill gives energy minister power over oil, gas, refined fuel exports
The Alberta government is poised to turn off the taps to British Columbia after approving landmark legislation that could throttle energy exports in defence of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“If the path forward for the pipeline through B.C. is not settled soon, I am ready and prepared to turn off the taps,” Premier Rachel Notley told a Wednesday news conference, stopping short of outlining how long that would take. “It could happen in 24 hours, it could happen over a much longer period of time.”
The NDP’s cornerstone bill grants the energy minister licensing authority over exporting crude oil, natural gas and refined fuels.
Bill 12 was pushed through hours after federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau promised Ottawa would backstop the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain project if Kinder Morgan Inc. walks away.
Last month, the company set a May 31 deadline to restore shareholder confidence and halted non-essential spending on the expansion.
The federal government is willing to “provide indemnity” to any investors, be they the project’s original architects or otherwise, to ensure the controversial project is able to proceed, Morneau told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“We are willing to indemnify the Trans Mountain expansion against unnecessary delays that are politically motivated,” he said.
Notley welcomed the move and called it an important step.
“I am confident solutions will be found that allow for construction to resume on schedule this summer,” she said. “There are a number of different leverage points in what is a very complex negotiation.”
Both news conferences coincided with Kinder Morgan’s annual meeting in Calgary, which drew nearly 100 pro-pipeline supporters.
Chairman and CEO Steve Kean acknowledged Morneau’s comments Wednesday as he reiterated the company’s position.
“We remain steadfast in our previously stated principles: clarity on the path forward, particularly with respect to the ability to construct through British Columbia, and ensuring adequate protection of our KML shareholders,” Kean said.
“While discussions are ongoing, we are not yet in alignment and will not negotiate in public.”
‘IGNORING THE RISKS’
B.C. Premier John Horgan has vowed his government would use every tool at its disposal to block the pipeline, citing environmental concerns.
“The federal finance minister is trying to use our government as an excuse, as the federal government puts taxpayer money on the line to backstop risks to private investors, while completely ignoring the risks to B.C.,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“We are acting well within B.C.’s rights to defend our environment, and the tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity that depend on it.”
Notley has repeatedly said she would do whatever it takes to get the pipeline to tidewater built, including buying the project outright.
Ottawa has also committed to the project, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructing Morneau to sit down with Kinder Morgan and come up with financial solutions.
Notley lauded Bill 12 — the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act — as a way to strategically deploy Alberta resources. It includes a sunset clause to restrict the energy minister’s powers to two years.
“Alberta will be equipped with new tools to assert our rights to control the flow of our resources to British Columbia,” she said.
She first warned of the bill to choke off oil exports in March, hearkening back to a move by former premier Peter Lougheed.
In 1980, the Lougheed government enacted legislation to restrict Alberta’s oil exports to Ontario by 15 per cent in a retaliatory move against the National Energy Program. It resulted in the federal government’s renegotiation of the program.