Hardisty, Alta., takes stock after nixing of Keystone XL pipeline

For one town in central Alberta the rejection of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project will continue to resonate long after the finger-pointing and hand-wringing is over.

Central Alberta town spent millions on industrial land, subdivisions before project nixed

The main street in Hardisty, Alta., the tiny, quiet town of Hardisty, Alta., where oilsands crude was to have begun its journey along Keystone XL. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

For one town in central Alberta the rejection of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project will continue to resonate long after the finger-pointing and hand-wringing is over.

"There's been millions of dollars spent in infrastructure in anticipation that Keystone would forge ahead," said Sandy Otto, chief administrative officer for Hardisty, Alta.

"We've tried to prepare ourselves for the project by making sure we have commercial and industrial land for sale to accommodate new business to the area that will service our industrial partners," she said.

TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline originates in Hardisty, Alberta. (The Canadian Press)
A new subdivision and hotel awaited the workers who would soon be needed once the pipeline was given the go ahead.

The tiny, quiet community 200 km southeast of Edmonton was to be the starting point for the nearly 1,900 km pipeline that would have carried  bitumen from the Alberta oilsands south.

Hardisty is the starting point of the existing Keystone system that has been shipping crude to the U.S. Midwest since 2010, Oklahoma since 2011 and the Gulf Coast since early 2014.

With the XL segment, pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. was to have provided a more direct route for 830,000 barrels a day to get to the lucrative Gulf market, jutting diagonally from the Canada-U.S. border across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

'It's just unfortunate'

But this week, U.S. President Barak Obama vetoed the project after years of signaling he would do just that, leaving a bitter taste in Hardisty.

"It's just unfortunate," Otto said. "I hope people down there take a good hard look at what Obama's decision is.

"He's pretty much put a nail in the coffin for a major project that could have benefited both countries."

Two men who make their living maintaining oilfield equipment, Lee Hayes and coworker Dave Stuart, are more blunt in their assessment of Obama's rejection: "It sucks."

"It creates a domino effect," Hayes said of the blow to the US$8 billion project. "Plus, the price of oil is down right now."

Stuart agrees the nixing of Keystone XL is particularly unwelcome when the price of oil is languishing below US$50 a barrel.

"It's two strikes against you before you even get going," he said.

For now, the town said it will continue to market itself as open for business, ready to take on another pipeline project such as TransCanada's Energy East to New Brunswick and Enbridge's Northern Gateway to the west coast.

With files from The Canadian Press


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