Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
politics

As Kinder Wavers, Oil-Rich Alberta Considers Buying Pipeline to Port

Updated on
  • Canadian province seeks to save project crucial to exports
  • British Columbia accuses company of stoking national crisis

Alberta, the landlocked Canadian province that’s home to the oil sands, would be willing to buy out Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain pipeline if that’s the only way to salvage the critical export route.

“We are considering a number of financial options to ensure that the Trans Mountain expansion is built, up to and including purchasing the pipeline outright,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement.

Kinder threatened to abandon the $5.7 billion project, which would triple the pipeline’s capacity, unless obstacles to the plan are resolved by May 31. The warning came amid strident opposition and legal challenges from British Columbia, the Pacific coast province it traverses.

An oil tank stands near the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

The expansion would allow the system to move an additional 590,000 barrels a day of crude from the oil sands to a terminal near Vancouver, where it could be sent to Asia and reduce Canada’s dependence on American buyers.

The Houston-based company’s ultimatum has stirred concerns across the nation as government officials and business leaders decried the risks to a project that was already approved federally in 2016 and that the energy industry is counting on to carry more crude to refiners abroad.

Meanwhile, B.C. Premier John Horgan accused Kinder Morgan Tuesday of “deliberately trying to dial up a crisis within our Canadian federation.”

‘Reasonable People’

“I’m surprised that a press release from Texas could evoke such consternation across the country,” he told reporters at a press conference in Victoria. The issue should be left to the courts to decide whether federal or provincial jurisdiction prevails, he said. “That’s the reasonable way for reasonable people to resolve disputes.”

Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain declined to comment on Alberta’s proposition.

“A company cannot resolve differences between governments,” Steve Kean, president and chief executive officer of Kinder Morgan, said earlier. “A company cannot litigate its way to an in-service pipeline amidst jurisdictional differences between governments.”

Politicians in Alberta have called for the federal government to withhold transfers to British Columbia if the province continues to block the pipeline. Notley has also threatened to cut off oil exports to its neighbor.

Read more about the political tension surrounding the project

Bill Morneau

Photographer: Sarah Pabst/Bloomberg

Finance Minister Bill Morneau declined to say if the federal government may take that step. “We’re not going to negotiate in public nor make public threats,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly voiced his support for the project and some of his cabinet ministers echoed that on Tuesday.

“The government is 100 percent behind this pipeline,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in Ottawa following a cabinet meeting. It’s a question of how, not whether, to support the project, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters.

— With assistance by Kevin Orland, Ryan Collins, and Josh Wingrove

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