Keystone XL

Alberta’s Pipeline Regulation a ‘Facade’: Experts

Oil pipeline

The Alberta Energy Regulator — responsible for regulating more than 430,000 kilometres of pipelines in the province — has finally started to try to clean up its image.

In the last two weeks of February, the agency launched a “pipeline performance report” that graphs recent pipeline incidents, it levelled a $172,500 fine against Murphy Oil for a 2015 spill that went undetected for 45 days and it shut down all operations by the notoriously uncooperative Lexin Resources, including 201 pipelines.*

But critics suggest there are major systemic flaws in the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) that still need to be addressed if pipeline safety is to be taken seriously.

It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. “You’re talking about a spill that went undetected for 45 days. And the company was fined an amount that they could likely make in less than an hour. That doesn’t send any message to the company. It definitely doesn’t send any message to the industry. And it doesn’t reform company behaviour.”

4 Reasons the ‘Oil to Tidewater’ Argument is Bunk

Oil tanker

Access to world markets for Canadian oil has been available since 1956 when the Westridge dock was constructed in Burnaby, B.C., and linked to the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The dock’s export capacity has rarely been used to its full potential in more than 60 years — yet the oil industry and politicians continue to make the argument that Canada needs new pipelines to get oil to world markets. 

Here are four reasons that argument doesn’t fly.

Three Reasons Why Keystone XL May Never Get Built

Keystone XL pipeline

Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.

But here’s the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn’t guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.

U.S. President Donald Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights” and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.

*Update: On March 24, 2017, Trump granted Trans Canada the presidential permit required to build Keystone XL, saying: “It’s going to be an incredible pipeline, the greatest technology known to man, or woman.”

So is Keystone XL going to be built? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why it may never become a reality.

Canada’s Trudeau Plans to Work with Trump Admin to Approve Keystone XL, Pump Exxon-owned Tar Sands into U.S.

Tar sands Mildred Lake plant

At a speech given to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he intends to work with President-elect Donald Trump to approve the northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. 

The speech comes as Trump revealed in a recent interview with Fox News that one of the first things he intends to do in office is grant permits for both Keystone XL and the perhaps equally controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Because Keystone XL North crosses the U.S.-Canada border, current processes require it to obtain a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of State, which the Obama administration has denied.

The next State Department, however, could be led by the recently retired CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, who was just nominated to be U.S. Secretary of State and soon will face a Senate hearing and vote. Potentially complicating this situation is the fact that Exxon holds substantial interest in both tar sands projects and companies, which stand to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline bringing this carbon-intensive crude oil across the border.

TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Resumes Operations Under Supervision After South Dakota Dilbit Spill

TransCanada received permission from federal regulators to re-start the Keystone Pipeline a week after a 16,800-gallon spill in South Dakota. The pipeline started back up on Sunday morning at a reduced operating pressure.
 
The incident has given ammunition to a group appealing the decision by the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) to re-certify TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite President Obama’s denial of a permit needed to cross international borders. 
 
The PUC reasoned that the next president could decide to issue the permit — a reminder that TransCanada has not given up on building the northern route of the Keystone XL. However, this most recent spill renews questions about the company’s ability to build safe pipelines.
 
When Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada materials engineer-turned-whistleblower, heard about a small spill along the Keystone Pipeline, he guessed that the leak would be found at a transition weld near where the pipeline crossed under a road. Transition welds connect thinner-walled pipe to thicker-walled pipe.

Exclusive: Newly Released Inspection Reports on Keystone XL’s Southern Route Fuel Doubt Over ‘Safest Pipeline Ever Built' Claims

TransCanada’s claim that the southern route of the Keystone XL Pipeline is the safest pipeline ever built in the United States is challenged by the release of new documentation confirming multiple code violations.
 
Daily inspection reports on the construction of the pipeline obtained by the Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group, renew questions about the pipeline’s integrity.

Liberals Targeted By Flurry of Fossil Fuel Lobbying Since Coming To Power

Suncor CEO Steve Williams

Only three-and-a-half months have passed since the federal election, but fossil fuel companies and lobby groups haven’t wasted any time in ramping up their lobbying efforts.
 
Suncor, the country’s largest energy company by revenue, has led the pack in meeting with high-ranking federal officials — logging at least 12 meetings in just over one month.
 
Between Nov. 2 and Nov. 19 the dominant oilsands player met four times with Louise Metivier, who was Canada’s chief negotiator at the UN climate summit held in Paris between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12.
 
Steve Williams, the company’s CEO and head lobbyist, also met three times with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna (on Nov. 18, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8) another three times with Environment Canada’s chief of staff Marlo Raynolds (on Nov. 5, Dec. 7 and Dec. 9) and twice more with Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s right-hand man and principal secretary ( Nov. 18 and Nov. 19).
 
“The meetings were preparatory meetings for Suncor’s participation at COP 21 in Paris,” explained Sneh Seetal, spokesperson at Suncor, via e-mail. “Our president and CEO, Steve Williams, attended as a member of the Canadian delegation at the invitation of the federal government. We discussed Suncor’s perspectives on climate change and how industry can help be a part of the solution.”

David Suzuki: Paris Changed Everything, So Why Are We Still Talking Pipelines?

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.

In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.

Alberta Climate Announcement Puts End to Infinite Growth of Oilsands

Alberta Climate Change Announcment

The days of infinite growth in Alberta’s oilsands are over with the Alberta government’s blockbuster climate change announcement on Sunday, which attracted broad support from industry and civil society.

This is the day that we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure and a strong, environmentally responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future,” Premier Rachel Notley said. “This is the day we stop denying there is an issue, and this is the day we do our part.”

Notley and Environment & Parks Minister Shannon Phillips released a 97-page climate change policy plan, which includes five key pillars.

Trudeau Said He is 'Disappointed' By Rejection of Keystone XL. But Is He Really?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has been Prime Minister for nearly 72 hours and for a large number of people, Canada is well into the 'Everything is Awesome' phase of his tenure.

But for some, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's honeymoon is already over. It ended around noon when he released a statement on Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, describing his administration as “disappointed.” To them it is a glaring “told-you-so” moment — one that exposes Trudeau once and for all as a corporate, right-of-centre wolf in progressive’s clothing. 

But what if it's not that moment? 

If anything, Canadians have seen that Trudeau is a savvy politician. During these early days in office he’s got a lot of politicking to do — and not just with Canadians worried about the climate.

In the same statement that Trudeau expressed his disappointment, he also pivoted to focusing on clean energy jobs.

The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts and create the clean jobs of tomorrow,” the statement read.

So before anyone gets themselves in a tizzy, let's take a look at Trudeau's position on pipelines more generally and explore the nuance of today's important announcement.

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