Pending Canada Pipeline Reviews to Proceed Under Existing Regime

  • McKenna makes comments before heading to Paris climate talks
  • Liberal government seeks to `regain public trust' in projects

Pipeline projects already proposed in Canada will continue to be reviewed under their current approval regime, while the newly elected federal government evaluates its environmental assessment process, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said.

McKenna, speaking to reporters Friday before leaving to attend the Paris climate summit, said regaining the public trust will nonetheless be a key consideration in “any project that goes forward.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which took power Nov. 4, has remained tight-lipped on how they’ll rewrite policy on energy project reviews to meet dual goals of boosting market access while raising environmental standards, the latter of which was a key election pledge.

Canada’s largest pipeline operators Enbridge Inc. and TransCanada Corp. have struggled to win support for new projects in Canada and the U.S., as opponents highlight leaks and the risks of climate change associated with fossil fuel consumption. At the same time, producers from Suncor Energy Inc. to Royal Dutch Shell Plc have stressed the need for new pipelines as oil-sands output continues to rise even with the collapse of crude prices.

Paris Summit

Trudeau heads to the Paris climate summit this weekend and has been saying, since taking power, his government will do more to reduce emissions than its predecessors.

McKenna offered no timeline on how quickly the new review process will be developed, nor did she offer details for what it might mean for proposals such as TransCanada’s Energy East project and Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain.

"We’ve already started looking at what that will mean for existing projects and how we develop a new process for projects that come forward," McKenna said. "I should be clear that projects initiated under the original system will continue on that path."

McKenna’s mandate letter from Trudeau instructed her to "immediately review Canada’s environmental assessment process to regain public trust and help get resources to market" and to introduce a "new, fair process."

McKenna applauded the Alberta government’s climate plan, released on Nov. 22, calling in particular the cap on oil sands emissions an "important first step." The oil sands "are an important contributor to not only the Alberta economy but the Canadian economy," the minister said.