Jim Prentice says some Alberta First Nations are behind new pipeline projects

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says some First Nations in the province support constructing more pipelines out of the province.

'Amongst the strongest allies that Alberta has at the table are the First Nations of this province'

Alberta's new premier is signalling to the energy industry his desire to advocate for more pipelines. (CBC)

Alberta's new premier says some First Nations are very supportive of constructing more pipelines out of the province.

"I can tell you that amongst the strongest allies that Alberta has at the table are the First Nations of this province who are in the energy business themselves and are passionate about achieving West Coast access," Jim Prentice said Tuesday morning. 

Prentice said achieving market access for Alberta oil and gas is critical. He plans to advocate for more pipelines through his role as premier, but also through his cabinet postings of aboriginal affairs and international and intergovernmental relations.

Pollster Janet Brown says the move puts a significant emphasis on pipelines and market access for Alberta oil.

"His two priorities are to offer up a balanced budget and show progress on the pipelines," she said. "And then I think he is hoping all the scandals of the Redford government will be a distant memory."

Calgary industry pleased, says expert

Dirk Lever, an energy analyst with AltaCorp Capital, says Prentice's background in working with First Nations should not be overlooked considering their importance to any pipeline project.

"I think pretty much everybody in Calgary's downtown area is probably quite pleased," he said.

Prentice wants more pipelines to help out the Alberta economy and to increase revenues for the government.

But some experts say there is risk in putting too much emphasis on pipelines, since just about every proposal is stalled or delayed.

TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, is still waiting to hear about approval from the United States.

'Northern Gateway is dead'

TransCanada is also seeking regulatory approval for its proposed 4,600-kilometre Energy East oil pipeline, which is expected to cost $12 billion.

Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline out to the West Coast has been approved by the federal government, but it's subject to 209 conditions recommended by the National Energy Board and further talks with aboriginal communities.

But Art Sterritt, executive director of British Columbia's Coastal First Nations, says Prentice needs to realize the project will never happen.

"Northern Gateway is dead,” he said. "Unless he is able to convince that industry to change the way it does business, don't bother coming west."

Sterritt's group met with Prentice several times while he was Enbridge's point man for resuscitating stalled talks with First Nations in B.C.

Many pipeline proposals stalled, delayed

"He could understand what we were saying, so we thought he had the ear and he certainly had access to the people that needed to make changes to the way they do business," he said.

Enbridge is also seeing a lot of protest over its plan for Line 9It originally shuttled oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal but was reversed in the late '90s in response to market conditions to pump imported crude westward.

The company is now proposing to flow oil back eastwards to service refineries in Ontario and Quebec.

Kinder Morgan has proposed to triple the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, which carries crude oil and other products from Alberta to Port Metro Vancouver.

Sending oilsands bitumen north through the Northwest Territories to a port in the Arctic is also a feasible option, according to a study commissioned last year by Alberta.