Rachel Notley mulls Trans Mountain pipeline pitch in face of B.C. anger

The Trans Mountain pipeline — projected to pump billions of barrels of oil to ports on the West Coast — has become a dividing line between Alberta and British Columbia.

Alberta premier will travel to B.C. next week to promote the Kinder Morgan oilsands link

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Trans Mountain Pipeline — planned to carry billions of barrels of oil to ports on the West Coast — has become a sharp dividing line between Alberta and British Columbia.

While Alberta praised the federal government's approval of the Kinder Morgan project, Tuesday's decision in Ottawa triggered anger and dismay from the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

Environmentalists are promising protests and court challenges. First Nations have vowed to step up their fight against the project.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was "depressed" by the decision. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she would be willing to go to jail to prevent the pipeline.

"Of course I'll go to jail," May told reporters Tuesday. "I'll block pipelines, I'll stand shoulder to shoulder with First Nations. This is not an issue you compromise on."

Beyond all the protests and political posturing, the pipeline will have to clear the legal hurdles faced by any such project.

The B.C government is undertaking its own environmental assessment of the Trans Mountain project.

The province's support for Trans Mountain will hinge on whether the B.C. government gets a share of the revenues, Premier Christy Clark said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

Commenting on the federal approvals for the first time, Clark said the proposal must meet all five of B.C.'s requirements for new pipeline projects in order to garner provincial approval.

Those conditions include world-leading practices for pipeline spill prevention, legal requirements that ensure Indigenous and treaty rights are addressed, and assurances that British Columbia will receive its "fair share" of the revenues.

"We need to make sure that there is a fair share for British Columbians," Clarke said. "Because British Columbians are depending on me to ensure these conditions are met. I've been fighting for this for four years.

"We've always said from the very beginning that if the five conditions are met on any of these pipeline projects, that they can expect BC's support."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said earlier Wednesday she has not spoken with Clark since the approvals were made public. Notley said she plans to travel to B.C. next Monday to promote the project. 

"There is no question that there is going to be some debate on this, in B.C. in particular," Notley said Wednesday in an early morning interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "But I think we took a very important step yesterday. 

The $6.8-billion project would, if built, carry oil from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B,C,. where it would be shipped to world markets.

Kinder Morgan forecasts the expansion project will create 15,000 jobs a year during construction, and 37,000 more direct and indirect jobs for every year of operation.

The company also estimates expanded operations will deliver an additional $46.7 billion in revenues for all levels of government in the first 20 years. The bulk of that money, $19.4 billion, would flow to Alberta.

Notley, who described Trans Mountain as a "light at the end of a tunnel" for Albertans rocked by plummeting oil prices, acknowledged that the project will be a hard sell in B.C.

"I anticipate going out to B.C. in the next short while to add our voice, to try to make the case to British Columbians for what this will do to help their economy and ensure greater job opportunities for people in that province."

'I give it a pretty good chance'

Moments after his government approved the Trans Mountain, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline across central B.C. had been rejected, and that a long-promised oil-tanker ban on the north coast will soon become law.

Notley said she remains hopeful that opposition to the pipeline will be muted by the federal tanker ban, and Alberta's new greenhouse emissions cap.

"People that equate the construction of the pipeline with a growth in greenhouse gas emissions won't be able to make that argument now, because our climate change leadership plan very clearly deals with those issues."

Alberta will implement a $20-per-tonne carbon tax on Jan.1, 2017, which will increase to $30 per tonne in 2018.

"With or without Kinder Morgan, we're not going to see emissions grow," Notley said. "This is one of the strongest arguments we can make to environmentalists on the West Coast.

"A lot of their concerns have been addressed, and I think moderate people will come to that conclusion."

In a news release, Kinder Morgan said it will now start seeking permits, with construction planned to start in September 2017. The company hopes to have the project online by the end of 2019.

Despite so much vocal opposition, Notley said the odds are in Kinder Morgan's favour.

"I think I give it a pretty good chance [for approval]," Notley said. "I'm confident that most Canadians understand the economic value of this pipeline to the whole country, not just to Alberta." 


Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca.