Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not often see eye to eye, typically sparring over a wide range of points from monetary and financial coverage to well being care and the atmosphere.
Two peas in a pod, they don’t seem to be.
Nonetheless, the 2 share a singular historical past in that their respective governments each took possession stakes in multibillion-dollar oil export pipelines. The offers are comparable in nature and intent, however to this point, it is a story of two pipelines with very totally different prospects.
For Trudeau, the venture was the Trans Mountain enlargement, which might carry crude from Edmonton to the Vancouver space. Developer Kinder Morgan halted improvement in April 2018 within the face of authorized and regulatory challenges, along with political opposition in B.C.
The fee? $4.5 billion.
Alberta’s possession stake within the Keystone XL pipeline that may stretch south to Nebraska got here collectively final 12 months as Calgary-based developer TC Power additionally confronted appreciable uncertainty. Not solely had been court docket challenges south of the border holding up the venture, the U.S. presidential election posed a big danger. President Donald Trump was a key ally of the venture, however Democratic challenger Joe Biden was a vocal critic.
The Alberta authorities turned an investor to spur TC Power to maneuver forward with development of the pipeline.
The fee? $1.5 billion and one other $6 billion in mortgage ensures.
This week, the way forward for Keystone XL is murky, at finest. Biden, who can be inaugurated on Wednesday, plans to tug the presidential allow for the pipeline throughout his first day in workplace as a part of a slew of government orders to reverse Trump insurance policies.
In the meantime, development continues on the Trans Mountain enlargement. Since Ottawa took possession, there have been many hurdles, however the venture is progressing.
Trudeau and Kenney each got down to obtain the identical factor. For a number of years, there was a necessity for extra oil export capability out of Alberta, a scenario inflicting oil producers to take a low cost on their product, which additionally ends in fewer royalties and tax income for the provincial and federal governments.
Oil manufacturing has continued to extend virtually yearly, outpacing progress in export pipeline capability.
It is the identical export constraint dilemma that prompted Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in 2019 to commit $3.7 billion to lease 1000’s of rail tank vehicles from CN Rail and Canadian Pacific Railway, one other funding with appreciable monetary publicity.
Each pipeline tasks could have been shelved or outright cancelled if not for the 2 governments stepping up, because the personal funding neighborhood wasn’t prepared to simply accept the chance each tasks offered.
The important thing distinction between Trans Mountain and Keystone XL was in how a lot management every authorities needed to handle that uncertainty. Benjamin Thibault, an environmental guide in Alberta, describes it because the indemnification of political danger.
Within the case of the Trans Mountain enlargement, the venture confronted authorized and regulatory hurdles ensuing from a scarcity of correct session with Indigenous teams and an insufficient environmental evaluation. After buying the pipeline, Ottawa needed to bridge these gaps or take the monetary loss.
WATCH | Kenney’s message for Biden:
Nevertheless, the points with Keystone XL stay out of the arms of the Alberta authorities. There’s little to nothing Kenney can do to affect the continuing authorized points south of the border. Extra importantly, making an attempt to vary the thoughts of the incoming administration, at this level, appears virtually futile.
Not solely is Trans Mountain within the federal authorities’s jurisdiction, however Ottawa has extra regulatory energy than a provincial authorities.
If a venture is efficacious however stalled due to investor danger, governments “can clear that hurdle by simply taking the fairness stake to maneuver the venture straight away,” stated Thibault.
“However the query is, how dangerous is that to the general public funding itself? Within the federal authorities’s [Trans Mountain] case, not particularly dangerous as a result of they’ve lots of management over the result. Within the provincial authorities’s [Keystone] scenario, very dangerous as a result of you’ve gotten little or no management over the result.”
Except for the difficulty of management, there are few variations between the tasks. The Keystone XL pipeline can be longer, however the Trans Mountain enlargement should navigate difficult terrain by the Rocky Mountains.
Each face comparable environmental opposition based mostly on the chance of a spill contaminating waterways, and concern that such tasks will encourage and lengthen North America’s dependence on fossil fuels that contribute to local weather change.
Change on the prime
Kenney was conscious of the political danger and he had a plan.
He appealed to pro-pipeline American governors and unions for assist, tried to get as a lot of the pipeline constructed as potential earlier than the Nov. Three presidential election, and vowed to make use of each authorized means to guard the funding.
Alberta’s authorities additionally just lately accepted greater than $1 million to rent influential Capitol Hill lobbyists and communication specialists to assist win assist in Washington for the pipeline and different commerce pursuits south of the border.
Biden and his crew have repeatedly stated they’re going to scrap the venture, a transfer welcomed by environmentalists who say Keystone is a menace to the combat towards local weather change
Final weekend, TC Power introduced the venture would obtain net-zero emissions throughout its operations “when it’s positioned into service in 2023.”
Kenney introduced the cash to the desk to assist Keystone XL, however there was little else he may present. Trudeau, however, had many levers to tug with the Trans Mountain enlargement, particularly contemplating his authorities’s management over the Canada Power Regulator, together with the power to vary how such infrastructure tasks are assessed.
If Biden pulls the Keystone XL allow this week, as anticipated, the Alberta authorities will possible must take a loss on the pipeline and write-down the funding.
“I do not actually perceive how individuals could possibly be stunned contemplating Biden has been promising this since Might,” stated James Coleman, an affiliate professor of power legislation at Southern Methodist College in Texas.
Whether or not that is the tip of the highway depends upon whether or not traders “stick by” the venture till the following shift in political management, he stated.
The following transfer
An evaluation by RBC Capital Markets on Sunday stated if Biden rescinds the presidential allow, the finest final result for TC Power’s inventory can be for the corporate to stroll away from the venture.
Kenney is urging the Biden crew to be open-minded and respectful to Canada, however he has additionally stated this may find yourself being a authorized battle.
With its possession stake in Keystone XL, Alberta would a minimum of have a seat on the desk for that courtroom bout.
There are additionally contingency plans in place to start liquidating Keystone XL stock to recoup some prices.
“If the venture ends, there can be belongings that could possibly be bought, like, for instance, monumental portions of pipes,” Kenney stated on Monday.
In the meantime, Trudeau nonetheless has consumers lined up to buy Trans Mountain every time he chooses to money within the funding.