U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska would take “some of the pressure” off two contentious pipelines being planned in B.C., according to a senior policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.
However, the Calgary-based think tank’s Nathan Lemphers emphasized that this reprieve would only be for the “short term”.
“That doesn’t mean that the pressure is completely off, because as oilsands continue to ramp up their production, they’ll continue to need additional pipeline space,” Lemphers told the Straight in a phone interview from Ottawa.
The U.S. Department of State is expected to conclude its review of TransCanada’s new Keystone XL application sometime after March of this year. The company’s 2008 application was denied a permit in January 2012.
Lemphers noted that a final decision is expected to come around May. That’s about the same time as hearings by a joint review panel will finish on a proposal by Enbridge Inc. to build a twin pipeline from Alberta to B.C.’s north coast. In late 2013, Kinder Morgan is expected to file an application to twin its existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, which originates in Edmonton and terminates in Burnaby.
Lemphers maintained that the stakes involved in the decision about Keystone XL are global in nature. “It will be a clear signal from the Obama administration on how serious the U.S. will be over the next four years on addressing the threats posed by climate change,” he said.
Hearings on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal are being held for a second time in Vancouver until February 1.
Citing overwhelming popular opposition to the Enbridge project, UBC business professor Keith Head suggested that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion could be the fallback option in the drive to find more foreign buyers of Canadian oil.
“There’s already lots of infrastructure for dealing with oil tankers coming in and out of Burrard Inlet,” Head told the Georgia Straight
by phone. “It’s much easier to add to something that already exists, both economically and psychologically, than to go into completely virgin territory.”
As campaign director for Tanker Free B.C., Sven Biggs sees no reason for environmental activists to let down their guard. Speaking by phone, Biggs told the Straight : “We’re going to be up against pretty powerful corporations no matter what happens south of the border with Keystone XL.”