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Oil pipeline toll one option for B.C. benefits

Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford meeting in Vancouver Tuesday. - Chris Schwarz / Province of Alberta
Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford meeting in Vancouver Tuesday.
— image credit: Chris Schwarz / Province of Alberta

Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she's optimistic her deal with B.C. Premier Christy Clark will increase the flow of oil west to the Pacific to diversify Canadian energy markets.

She spoke Tuesday to the Vancouver Board of Trade after the two premiers unveiled what they called a framework agreement for cooperation on new heavy oil pipelines.

"It makes it clear, officially, that Alberta's royalties are off the table," Redford said. "The economic benefit cannot be provided or guaranteed by the government of Alberta."

While B.C. won't ask Alberta to hand over any share of oil royalties or taxes, it can seek to impose its own toll or tax on oil that may flow through a new pipeline, with Alberta's support.

Clark hasn't said if a pipeline toll is how B.C. will seek to gain direct benefits to offset its environmental risk and satisfy her fifth condition for new oil pipelines.

"That is certainly one example but it may or may not be the one we end up seeing," Redford said.

She stressed the discussion on benefits is one for B.C. to have directly with industry, adding she sees no role for Alberta.

Such a charge may reduce the competitiveness of a new B.C. pipeline relative to other pipelines Alberta also wants built to carry its oil south or east, or relative to the shipping of oil by rail.

In her speech to business leaders, Redford pointed out 42 per cent of the natural gas produced in B.C. flows through Alberta to get to markets – without any toll being applied by her government.

"Our provinces share economic destinies," she said, making the case for the two province's to work closely together to prosper from energy exports.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers vice-president Greg Stringham downplayed the potential for a provincially imposed pipeline toll, saying the idea has not been formally proposed.

"As we look at options I'm sure that's one that will be considered on the table," he said, but added industry is unlikely to propose any preferred solution.

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said it was "too early" to talk about the idea of a B.C.-imposed toll on each barrel shipped through a twinned Trans Mountain pipeline.

"We're looking to define and deliver the benefits from our project directly to communities in British Columbia," he said.

The $5.4-billion Trans Mountain project proposes to nearly triple pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day.

Anderson said $423 million would be spent in local cities during construction, $150 million of that on accommodations alone.

He said the project also means an additional $500 million going to cities in the form of higher property tax payments over the next 20 years.

Ben West of ForestEthics accused Premier Clark "flipflopping" and preparing to sell out B.C.'s environment with the agreement.

"I don't hear anything that would change the likelihood of a spill, the dangers from diluted bitumen, the concerns around climate change or the concerns of First Nations," West said.

"The only thing that seems to be being discussed is revenue sharing. And quite frankly, our rivers and our coast aren't for sale."

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson was non-committal on the idea of B.C. imposing a toll on oil shipped through a twinned Trans Mountain pipeline, saying his firm intends to highlight the project's community benefits.

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