Trans Mountain pipeline vital, Notley says as Nebraska clears final hurdle for Keystone XL

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Monday the provincial government is "very pleased" that Nebraska regulators have approved the Keystone XL pipeline route, but pushes for action on West coast pipeline.

But province still needs to get oil to B.C. coast, premier tells Toronto audience

TransCanada's Keystone pipeline facilities are seen in Hardisty, Alta. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Premier Rachel Notley says she's pleased to see the Keystone XL pipeline clear its final regulatory hurdle but Canada still needs to get another pipeline built — the Trans Mountain expansion to the west coast.

Regulators in Nebraska on Monday approved the so-called "mainline alternative route" for TransCanada's $10-billion Keystone XL pipeline to move Alberta oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The alternative route is a slightly different path from the company's preferred route.

Speaking to reporters after an address to a business and political audience at the Toronto Empire Club, Notley said she was pleased by the decision in Nebraska to give the go-ahead to Keystone XL.

However, the focus of her speech, and of her remarks to reporters, was the need to develop new offshore markets through the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which would carry Alberta oil to a marine export terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

The National Energy Board approved the Trans Mountain project in May 2016, imposing 157 conditions, and the federal government gave it the green light in November 2016. However, the controversial project is facing court challenges and is opposed by the NDP government in B.C.

'Get it together'

"Failure to make progress on our own pipeline to tidewater is in effect our inability to 'Get it together,' " Notley told reporters.

"We are a country that can do better, and it needs to be everybody's priority," she said. She emphasized that Canada needs to compete "intelligently and strategically" by opening new Asia-Pacific markets.

Monday marked the second time Notley has spoken to the Empire Club, which features a wide range of high-profile guests from the world of politics, academics, business, science and the arts.

She asked the crowd to support the Trans Mountain pipeline, citing the benefits of well-paying jobs that could come to all Canadians, not just those living in Alberta.

In Edmonton, Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said the Keystone XL pipeline would mean increased capacity for production, and more jobs along the route from Hardisty, Alta. to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"It's one more piece. The more access we can get for our product the better," said McCuaig-Boyd, adding that the approval doesn't lessen the need to open new markets with the Trans Mountain pipeline to Burnaby.

"We have to keep working hard for that access," the energy minister said.

Jobs in construction, procurement

McCuaig-Boyd said there will be "lots of jobs" in construction and procurement created when the Keystone pipeline starts construction. 

Meant to link Canada's oilsands crude to U.S. refineries, the Keystone XL project has been a source of deep public divide since it was proposed nearly a decade ago.

The pipeline would stretch from Hardisty, 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, to Steele City, Neb., crossing through Saskatchewan, Montana and South Dakota. Keystone XL would expand on the existing Keystone system.

Mike Hudema, a Greenpeace climate campaigner, called Monday's decision a "partial victory" for TransCanada given that approval was given to the company's alternate route, which runs farther northeast than its preferred route.   

"This could potentially take years longer," when factoring in time for new environmental impact statements and notifying landowners along the route, he said Monday.

"You'll see legal challenges probably being launched, both at the state and the federal level, against this project. And you'll also see a growing resistance on the land to this project, as well as in the financial institutions that are bankrolling the damage.

"I don't think this pipeline is ever going to hit this oil."

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney issued a statement applauding the pipeline approval, but said the NDP climate leadership plan had no role in making it happen.

"The NDP opposed Keystone XL while in opposition, and did not offer any substantive objections when then-president Obama rejected the project in November 2015," wrote Kenney.