Fraser Forum

U.S. judge deals another blow to Canadian pipeline plans

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Here in Alberta, it’s often said, pace T.S. Elliot, that April is the cruelest month because it teases us with hints of spring, only to cruelly dash our hopes with snowfalls and freezes.

Now Albertans have reason to find this April particularly cruel as recent events call into further question two of the remaining three “in-play” pipelines that might carry Alberta oil to markets willing to pay higher prices than it now commands.

Kinder Morgan’s suspension of all “non-essential” work on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project represented nothing less than a watershed moment when it came to pipeline development in Canada. This C$7 billion-plus pipeline would have carried an additional 590,000 barrels of oil per day to a shipping port near Vancouver (in Burnaby).

Subsequent developments have only emboldened opponents of the project, with the British Columbia Premier John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver doubling down on anti-pipeline rhetoric, even in the face of a threatened trade war with Alberta.

Now, in another blow to a Canadian oil pipeline, a judge in the United States has ruled that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which would carry an initial capacity of 760,000 barrels per day from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, can proceed… but not on the proposed route through Minnesota, and not in the way planned by Enbridge.

Enbridge planned to build a parallel pipeline to the existing Line 3, which was to be retired in situ—meaning “removing the oil from the pipeline; cleaning the pipeline; physically disconnecting the pipeline; segmenting the pipeline and continuing to monitor it.”

Under Judge Ann O’Reilly’s decision, Enbridge would be forced to decommission and remove the existing Line 3 pipeline, then build the new pipeline in the same trench, as it were. This is an option that Enbridge has already stated is impractical. The Line 3 pipeline project was already projected to cost C$9 billion (before the proposed change), which would make it the most expensive pipeline Enbridge has ever contemplated.

On top of all that, Line 3, like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion, still faces constant resistance from environmental groups and some First Nations groups, and must still weather the storms of political jockeying, court challenges and “civil disobedience,” which historically has not been all that civil.

April is certainly looking like 2018’s cruelest month, at least in terms of its chilling impact on potential oil future. But as they say about spring, hope springs eternal.


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