Oilweek editor: No compromise possible with anti-pipeline groups

Darrell Stonehouse

[Website editor's note: What is notable in this article by an industry 'insider' is the prediction of approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline but with conditions that will delay it for many years.]

Anti-pipeline activists are starting to lose their common sense.

In early October, a group calling itself Climate Direct Action shut valves on five pipelines carrying crude from Canada into the U.S. market, risking a major rupture to make a point.

A few days later construction equipment being used to build the Dakota Access Pipeline was set on fire, causing about $2 million in damage.

Then, in late October, an anti-pipeline activist in Hamilton, Ont., peppered Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a handful of pumpkin seeds.

All these incidents are bringing into focus one clear fact: there is no compromise possible with environmental groups when it comes to fossil fuel development.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who actually listens to what environmentalists have been saying the last decade. Their stated goal is to leave the oil in the ground, and blocking pipeline construction is only a means to that end. And it is clear from the examples above they will take dangerous actions to achieve that goal.

Yet Alberta Premier Rachel Notley continues to believe her carbon tax and renewable energy plans will mollify these groups.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes tinkering with the National Energy Board NEB will help change their minds.

These beliefs are one of two things—foolishness or deception—and neither reflects well on the leadership in Edmonton and Ottawa.

I think we are being deceived.

I don’t think either Notley or Trudeau have any serious interest at all in getting pipelines built, despite their statements to the contrary.

Both governments are bringing in carbon taxes ahead of the U.S. and other competitors, making development of Canadian oil and gas more expensive and hitting investment in the sector. The Alberta government has also layered on new taxes. These actions are designed to keep oil and gas in the ground, not to encourage further development of the industry.

Trudeau has made no serious effort to bring the provinces together to forward pipelines. In fact, he continues sending mixed messages. First, he pledges to ban tanker traffic off the west coast, and then he approves LNG development with so many conditions that it makes development prohibitive. He promises a new deal for First Nations, and then he ignores them.

Notley brings in a carbon tax then bristles and says she can’t support a federal tax unless a pipeline is built. She probably should have thought of that before she introduced her own tax.

Here is what I think is going to happen with the Trans Mountain Expansion decision, expected from Trudeau before year-end. The pipeline will be approved but with so many conditions it will be delayed for at least a decade. Lawsuits from environmentalists and municipal governments will follow, adding to the delays.

But Trudeau and Notley will claim they delivered on their promises.

That’s politics. And it’s why decisions on such inter-provincial projects were given to the arms-length NEB years ago to take politics out of such decisions.

That, of course, was when Canada was governed by the rule of law and not rule of men.

This is where we are now.

About Darrell Stonehouse

Darrell Stonehouse is editor of Oilweek as well as JWN's Intelligence Publications. He joined the company in 1998 as editor of the Oil & Gas Inquirer, Oil & Gas Quarterly and Alberta Construction Magazine. In 2004, he was appointed managing editor of all JWN magazines. In 2006, Darrell left the company to operate his own communications business, focused on custom publishing products. He rejoined JWN in 2011. Prior to joining JWN, Darrell was editor of Alberta Beef magazine. His work has also appeared in many other business publications, including Financial Post Magazine, Alberta Report, and a variety of agricultural publications.