Alberta Premier Rachel Notley applauds Trump's Keystone XL approval

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is celebrating approval of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline while keeping her eyes on what the U.S. President Donald Trump wants to renegotiate.

'This project is going to create good jobs here in Alberta and that's my focus,' Notley says

(Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Premier Rachel Notley is pleased with approval of the Keystone XL pipeline but says the province will keep a close watch for the possible renegotiation of the project's terms by the new U.S. administration. 

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed two executive orders allowing the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

After signing the order, Trump indicated that the Keystone project's terms could be renegotiated.

At a news conference in Edmonton, Notley said the government needs to watch what Trump means though she is heartened the new administration appears to understand the close trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. 

"Am I completely unconcerned? No," she said. "Do we continue to monitor this very closely? Will we continue you to monitor this very closely? Will we devote quite a bit of attention to engaging in with officials in the U.S.? Absolutely."

Trump's decision to move ahead on Keystone was welcomed as a good first step in bolstering the struggling oil and gas economy, Notley said. But she said her government will still work to get pipelines built to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts so Alberta crude can be shipped to new offshore markets.

"While discussions around Keystone XL progress, we are focused on building Canadian pipelines to Canadian tidewater," Notley said. 

Though Canadian projects are her government's priority, Notley acknowledged the importance of Keystone XL during a time of economic uncertainty.

"We're at the point now where the Alberta economy needs to be enjoying the benefits of a higher return for our oil and gas ...  And so that is definitely something that will happen as a result of the Keystone." 

"It's not that we haven't been a fan of the Keystone XL, it's that it hasn't been a priority. For us, our view has been that first of all, we need to diversify our markets ... so our focus has been about getting Canadian access to Canadian tidewater." 

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline was blocked by former U.S. president Barack Obama in late 2015, when he said it would have impeded U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centrepiece of his environmental legacy.

The proposed 1,900-kilometre pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. The U.S. government needed to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border. 

The mayor of Hardisty, Anita Miller, is pleased with the announcement because of the construction jobs the pipeline will bring to the area.

"There will be a lot of construction workers here during that timeframe that they're building that pipeline while they're in our community."

Hardisty Mayor Anita Miller believes the construction could double the population of the town, at 650 people.

Miller believes the construction could double the population of the town, which dipped to under 650 people in 2011 from 760 in 2006.

She also said surrounding communities will benefit from the influx of business from visitors and short-term residents.

"For their hotels, and motels and camping grounds depending on the time of year, of course the restaurants, the gas stations, all those businesses are going to see an economic boost, for sure."

 Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the approval is  proof that Alberta's industry does not need to be "punished with caps and carbon taxes to get access to tidewater." 

"The U.S. State Department acknowledged for years that this pipeline would be good for job creation while protecting the environment. Unfortunately, the independent approval process was politicized by the previous administration," Jean said in a news release, who took the announcement as an opportunity to criticize the NDP. 

"Wildrose has been proud to consistently advocate for our energy sector and pipelines in every direction."

"Despite previously campaigning against Keystone XL, we hope all members of the NDP government will celebrate today's approval."

With files from the Canadian Press