Brian Gallant sympathizes with pipeline company after 'twists and turns'

Premier Brian Gallant hopeful Energy East pipeline project will go forward, despite TransCanada's latest decision to suspend its application for the pipeline for 30 days to re-evaluate its viability.

Whether TransCanada goes ahead with Energy East project is out of province's control, premier says

Premier Brian Gallant says whether TransCanada goes ahead with its pipeline application is out of New Brunswick's control, but the province will try to get the assessment process clarified. (CBC)

Clarity and viability are two key ingredients TransCanada needs to go ahead with its Energy East pipeline application, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said Monday.

TransCanada announced a 30-day suspension of its application last week to re-evaluate the viability of the pipeline, which would carry 1.1. million barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta to Saint John. The company has told Gallant it could drop the controversial project altogether.  

The Calgary-based company said it wants to do a "careful review" of the new assessment process to gauge its effect on the costs, schedules and viability of the pipeline.

In August, the regulator, the National Energy Board, expanded its planned review of the project, saying it will assess the project's indirect contributions to upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions.

Gallant said TransCanada feels the new criteria are unclear, and the province will do what it can to produce some clarity. 

"I want robust regulations, as I think all Canadians do, but we do have to have a stable and very clear process." 

Not a straight road

The National Energy Board's expansion of its assessment criteria was just the latest bend in TransCanada's application since the company proposed the pipeline.

"For any project in general, if we're changing some of the criteria and rules, midway through, that's hard for any proponent," Gallant said. "That's hard for any investor. It's hard for the markets."

Although the suspension of the project was a disappointment, Gallant was sympathetic with TransCanada.

"There's been timeline shifts, there's been added regulations, added processes, extra criteria," Gallant said. "To be fair to the proponent, there's no doubt … this process has had lots of twists and turns and that makes it hard for anybody to invest." 

Gallant spoke with TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, who said the pause in the application would allow the company to analyze the vitality and viability of the project.

"He said there's a variance of options being considered, all from continuing with the project and the application, completely stopping the application and some variances in between," said Gallant. 

Suspension of the Energy East pipeline is bad news for New Brunswick, says Premier Brian Gallant. 1:09

Gallant said the federal government's approval of the pipelines over the last few months is a signal to TransCanada to get the application through.

"There's a lot of moving pieces that I have no doubt would affect TransCanada's ultimate decision," he said.

"With that said … the Trudeau government approving pipelines over the last few months was a great sign to us, we believe that was a clear signal to industry and to Canadians that they're going to take economic growth seriously."

Pipeline not part of planning

The company has previously said the development and construction phase would create 3,700 direct and indirect jobs in New Brunswick and boost the provincial GDP by $1.2 billion.

Gallant said the proposed pipeline would create thousands of jobs for New Brunswickers, strengthen the economy across Canada, reduce dependency on foreign oil, allow a safe mode of transportation across the country and diversify markets when it comes to exporting oil.

"There's lots of benefits for the whole country," he said.

Gallant repeated assurances that the province never worked the Energy East pipeline into its fiscal and economic targets and never counted on it when putting budgets forward to balance the books by 2020.

"The Energy East pipeline happening or not is out of our control," said Gallant.  

With files from Information Morning Fredericton


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