Premier says Keystone XL good for Sask. economy but some raise environmental concerns

Saskatchewan's premier said he welcomes a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to push forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

U.S. President Donald Trump says pipeline will be built

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is applauding the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan's premier said he welcomes a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to push forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline

If Keystone had been judged on its merits and on the facts, it would have been approved years ago.- Brad Wall, Saskatchewan premier

In a written statement today, Premier Brad Wall said that this was a "win for both our countries' energy industries, for energy consumers and for energy security."

Former U.S. president Barack Obama's administration rejected the pipeline, saying that it would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy.

Environmentalists cheered that decision. They had long argued that the project, which would pump crude oil from the oilsands in Alberta to refineries in Texas, represented dirty fossil fuels that must be phased out.

Wall does not agree with that view, and today said that "if Keystone had been judged on its merits and on the facts, it would have been approved years ago."

Wall says Keystone XL good for Saskatchewan 

Wall also suggested the project will result in some 2,000 jobs to build the 530 kilometres of the Keystone pipeline through Alberta and Saskatchewan.

He added that it will mean an additional $1.3 million in annual property tax revenues in this province.

The decision by the U.S. to push forward with the project could also be good news for Regina-based steelmaker Evraz. The company had been working on the Keystone project before it was shut down and Evraz is optimistic it will have a role again now that it's moving forward.

Energy and Resources Minister Dustin Duncan said the pipeline would bring jobs to Saskatchewan, despite Trump's comments that he would demand pipeline companies source steel from American manufacturers.

"We certainly hope that Evraz will be involved. That will mean continued employment for a lot of people in Regina," he said.

"But again, we need to see what those conditions will look like in terms of some of the president's comments about ensuring that the pipe is American pipe."

Good news, but better management needed: NDP

The Saskatchewan NDP welcomed the announcement about the executive orders but accused the provincial government of mismanagement over its handling of recent oil spills.

"The Sask. Party's refusal to be transparent about inspections of the pipelines we do have, and failure to keep the public informed of any problems, is striking," NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule said in an emailed statement.

"To ensure success and sustainability, the Saskatchewan people deserve a government that will support our resource sector while also ensuring the protection of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land where we grow our food." 

Benefits for communities along pipeline route

But the NDP agreed with the government that the pipeline would provide a boost for the Saskatchewan economy, saying the benefits would include higher tax revenues for municipalities and school divisions along the pipeline route.

The Rural Municipality of Arlington is among those set to benefit. 

Reeve Don Lundberg said his community was "99.9 per cent" in favour of Keystone XL, which he believes will boost the economy through job creation, taxation and construction.

"It'll be crews of hundreds of men in the area," he said.

"And once it passes on then there's probably four or five or six permanent jobs left, which in a small community is fairly significant."

Lundberg said there was already hundreds of kilometres of oil pipeline in the rural municipality, including stretches of TransCanada Corp. and Vantage pipelines.

He added that the existing TransCanada pipeline, built in the 1980s, generates about $370,000 in taxation and $190,000 for the school division annually.

Lundberg was not concerned about the possibility of environmental effects after last week's 200,000-litre oil spill at the Ocean Man First Nation, saying there had never been any problems with the existing pipelines.

"You're eventually going to have some small issue but it's so contained that I really am not concerned at all," he said.

Learn from mistakes first, says Sask. ecologist

But David Henry, an ecologist and board member of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, believes the pipeline will lead to increased pollution from market and production expansion in Alberta.

He also pointed to leaks from TransCanada's existing Keystone crude oil pipeline, saying more research is needed into their impact.

"I think it would be good for the economy but I think we have to weigh the pros and cons, and I think we have to build the pipelines correctly so we avoid some of these impacts," he said.

Even with Trump's executive orders, he said the pipeline will still have to pass an environmental assessment before it can proceed in Canada.

With last week's pipeline spill at the Ocean Man First Nation, and last year's Husky oil spill near Maidstone, Sask., he said more work was needed to improve future pipelines.

With files from CBC Radio-Canada's Nahila Bendali