The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion cleared a critical 10-month roadblock Tuesday with a federal cabinet decision to give the contentious national project a new lease on life.
That green light was the answer that many in Alberta have anxiously waited for since a Federal Court of Appeal decision threw the $7.4-billion project into chaos last August. And though Alberta Premier Jason Kenney welcomed the Trudeau government’s move, he said Tuesday afternoon there was more work ahead before anyone should consider it a real win.
“(This) isn’t a victory to celebrate, it’s just another step in a process that has, frankly, taken too long,” Kenney said.
“We’ll measure success not by today’s decision, but by the beginning of actual construction and, more importantly, by completion of the pipeline.”
Flanked by Energy Minister Sonya Savage at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton, Kenney said his government will do everything it can to support immediate construction and real progress.
He’s eyeing 2022 as the year oil could begin flowing through the pipe.
“We need to be hopeful in this province that we will get this done,” Kenney said.
The decision, announced in Ottawa after financial markets closed Tuesday, is the second blessing Trudeau’s cabinet has given to the Trans Mountain expansion in its term. The first approval, in November 2016, came at the same time it rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would have carved out a new route from Bruderheim to Kitimat, B.C.
But the project came to an abrupt halt in August 2018 with a court ruling that the federal government made its initial decision based on flawed consultations with Indigenous communities and failed to adequately consider the project-related environmental effects of marine shipping.
This time, the federal government now owns the pipeline having purchased it from Kinder Morgan last summer when the company threatened to walk away from the project over constant delays. The expansion will triple the pipeline’s carrying capacity to 890,000 barrels per day from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
Announcing the approval, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said all government revenues from the project would go to Canada’s clean energy transition.
“To those who want sustainable energy and a cleaner environment, know that I want that, too,” said Trudeau. “But in order to bridge the gap between where we are and where we’re going, we need money to pay for it.”
For Kenney, the question now becomes whether Trans Mountain will help Canada demonstrate to the world it is a safe place to invest, create jobs and build infrastructure.
“This is a test for whether Canada truly is an economic union where we can dream big and still do big things,” he said.
There almost certainly will be more challenges ahead.
British Columbia’s Premier John Horgan vowed Tuesday that his government would continue legal challenges against Trans Mountain, though he also said the province will grant any lawfully requested permits to start construction on the twinned pipeline this summer. “Although I regret the federal government’s decision, it is within their authority to make that decision,” he said.
Horgan did not rule out throwing the B.C. government’s support behind future First Nations or environmental challenges, but said he’d consider it on a case-by-case basis.