Opinion

Just Like Santa, Kinder Morgan Is Coming to Town This December

While some players call pipeline expansion naughty, others find it very nice indeed.

By Bill Tieleman 18 Oct 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose clients include unions and businesses in the resource and public sector. Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

“We need Canada to have our backs. And we need to get a pipeline.” — Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley

Just like Santa Claus, Kinder Morgan is coming to town in December.

And while many British Columbians feel the company and its Trans Mountain oil pipeline proposal to ship more oil out of Burnaby is beyond naughty, key players see it as very nice indeed — another sure sign that the federal Liberal government will approve the project before Christmas.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s surprise announcement that a national carbon pricing system will be implemented with or without all provinces’ approval was one of the pre-conditions for giving Kinder Morgan a green light — because it provides cover for the Liberals and also mollifies environmental groups who have clamoured for a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.

Then came news that Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley would not join forces with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall — to oppose the carbon-pricing plan he called a “betrayal” — because the unstated yet obvious deal is for Alberta to accept carbon pricing in exchange for Kinder Morgan approval.

Wall was furious at Trudeau: “The level of disrespect shown by the Prime Minister and his government today is stunning. This is a betrayal of the statements made by the Prime Minister in Vancouver this March. And this new tax will damage our economy.”

But Notley was remarkably calm.

“To suggest that there should be no carbon price in Canada, that’s probably not a starting point that’s helpful for me to utilize,” Notley said earlier this month.

In fact, she said Alberta supports a national carbon price “in principle,” but not without “serious concurrent progress on energy infrastructure” — in other words, a new pipeline.

“As far as we’re concerned, we can’t be talking about the sort of [carbon] prices that got rolled out today until we get a commitment from this federal government that they’re going to move on this fundamentally important economic piece that Albertans need,” Notley said.

Next to signal Kinder Morgan is coming was B.C. Premier Christy Clark last week when she complained about the lack of sufficient federal oil spill response following an oil barge spill near Bella Bella on B.C.’s north coast.

“I have argued for five years now since I became premier that the spill response that we had on our coast is totally inadequate, not just for what some people argue should come if pipelines come from Alberta. It’s not adequate for what we have now going up and down our coast,” Clark said.

Is Clark really, really mad at the federal Liberals? Hell no — she just needs to get them to do more in order to meet one of her “five conditions” for B.C. approving Kinder Morgan too.

Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc totally gets that.

“The protection of Canadian waters is of utmost importance and we understand the concerns of residents in coastal communities. The Prime Minister has mandated my colleagues and me to work to increase marine safety, including augmenting the capacity of the Coast Guard, improving environmental responses and enhancing partnerships with Indigenous communities,” LeBlanc said in a statement in response.

So stay tuned for another Trudeau-Clark photo opportunity before the December 19 federal deadline to decide on the Kinder Morgan expansion.

And as the BC Liberal Party website makes it clear, Clark is all about “getting to YES on job creation and growth.”

Nor is Clark concerned about the federal carbon-pricing plan — because it wouldn’t force any increase in B.C.’s existing carbon tax until 2020.

Lastly, to figure out what will happen, follow the money.

Legendary U.S. investor Warren Buffett and billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens have both substantially increased their shares in Kinder Morgan in the past few months.

And stock analysts who cover Kinder Morgan are giving the giant pipeline firm strong support, with 42 per cent rating it a “buy” and 58 per cent a “hold” — and none a “sell” — after its market performance improved significantly. As of last week, its share prices have risen 39 per cent in 2016.

Why are all these investors buying? “It could mean only one thing: that they see a lot of upside ahead,” says Robert Baillieul, editor-in-chief at IncomeInvestors.com and a former TD Energy analyst.

Environmental groups have sworn to block Kinder Morgan’s pipeline, as have Metro Vancouver mayors.

And in September, more than 50 First Nations from BC, Quebec and the United States signed a treaty alliance against oil sands expansion.

“Therefore, our Nations hereby join together under the present treaty to officially prohibit and to agree to collectively challenge and resist the use of our respective territories and coasts in connection with the expansion of the production of the Alberta Tar Sands, including for the transport of such expanded production, whether by pipeline, rail or tanker,” they stated.

But other First Nations have signed mutual benefits agreements with Kinder Morgan, including the Tk’emlups Indian Band in Kamloops, who are due to get $3 million if the pipeline proceeds.

As has Kamloops city, standing to receive $700,000, and undercutting Metro Vancouver’s opposition.

So B.C. oil opponents better watch out and better take care because this Christmas, Kinder Morgan is indeed coming to town.  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Politics, Environment

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