Alberta premier seeks national pipeline help

Warning of a $10-billion budget deficit, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley appealed for nationwide help securing approval of a pipeline linking her province’s oil sands with seaborne oil trade.

“Every Canadian benefits from a strong energy sector,” she said in a televised speech Apr. 7. “But we can’t continue to support Canada’s economy unless Canada supports us. That means one thing: building a modern and carefully regulated pipeline to tidewater.”

Opposition to pipelines proposed between Alberta and Canada’s Pacific and Atlantic coasts prolong a transport bottleneck originally to have been resolved by expansion of the Keystone pipeline system, the border crossing of which was rejected by the US last year.

Reliance on transport options costlier than pipelines lowers netbacks to producers struggling with bitumen values depressed by general market weakness.

The consequent contraction of the oil sands industry has ravaged the economy of Alberta, where the left-leaning New Democratic Party led by Notley won control of the government last May.

Job losses related to the oil and gas slump in Alberta are estimated at 110,000.

In her speech, Notley said oil and gas royalties will be down 90% from $10 billion—one fifth of provincial revenue—2 years ago.

Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau, of the Liberal Party, said at a conference in Vancouver last month he supports pipeline expansion consistent with his aggressive promises for climate change mitigation.

To achieve a low-carbon economy, he said, “We need to make smart strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure, but we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Notley, whose past statements on pipelines have been similarly balanced against environmental positions, was less hesitant in her new speech.

“I can promise you this: I won't let up,” she said. “We must get to ‘yes’ on a pipeline.”

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