Jim Prentice will help Washington Keystone XL talks, says Gary Doer

Canada's ambassador to the United States says Alberta premier-elect Jim Prentice carries a lot of clout in Washington, where a parade of top federal and provincial officials have stumped in recent years for the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline.

Industry insiders hope Prentice will reignite progress on Keystone XL discussions

Jim Prentice celebrates his win following the results of the Progressive Conservative leadership first ballot in Edmonton on Saturday. One expert says Prentice could bring some green credibility to controversial pipeline projects based in Alberta. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Canada's ambassador to the United States says Alberta premier-elect Jim Prentice carries a lot of clout in Washington, where a parade of top federal and provincial officials have stumped in recent years for the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline. 

"Premier-elect (sic) Prentice is very well respected in the United States," Gary Doer said in an interview. 

Doer said Prentice brings some green credibility to the file. For instance, in 2010, when Prentice was the federal environment minister, he worked with his U.S. counterparts on a deal for tougher light vehicle emissions standards.

"He goes into this job already bringing in one of the biggest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," Doer said.

"He knows the people and he's worked and got agreements before. The premier-elect is very effective in Washington – believe me." 

Keystone XL mired in regulatory process

Prentice, who was a senior executive at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce after leaving federal politics, was chosen as leader of the Alberta's governing Progressive Conservative party this past weekend. 

During her tenure as premier, Alison Redford made numerous trips to Washington to make the case for Keystone XL, which would link 830,000 barrels per day of mostly oilsands crude to U.S. markets. Six years after its backer, Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., filed its application, the proposal still remains mired in the U.S. regulatory process. 

Much of the consternation over Keystone XL and similar proposals is over what would flow in the pipeline: oilsands crude. Environmental groups see Keystone XL as a key enabler to further development of Alberta's oilsands – and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions that would come with that. 

Many have argued that the continued lack of federal greenhouse gas regulations for the oilsands in Canada has made the sales pitch for Keystone XL in the U.S. more difficult. 

In the past, when trying to sell the U.S. on Keystone XL, Canada relied on the argument that it can provide a stable, reliable supply of oil and "that we weren't petro-dictators," Doer said earlier at a conference in Calgary hosted by Swiss technology giant ABB Group. 

Nebraska court case

"And to some degree, some false narratives were developed against the oilsands about 10 years ago that we've had to work hard to knock down. Have we knocked them all down? No." 

Doer said a court case in Nebraska over whether the governor has the authority approve Keystone XL's route through the state shouldn't prevent the Obama administration from making a decision on the pipeline. 

"I think they could approve it today based on the fact that the border, the international crossing, which the president has
international jurisdiction on, is in Montana and not in Nebraska," he said. 

As for whether he believes Keystone XL will be approved before Barack Obama's second term as president ends, Doer said it was a toss-up. 

"I think if he listens to scientists ... the answer is yes," he said in the interview. "If he goes with who's loudest, who knows?"