Ottawa targets pipeline red tapePosted: May 21, 2009
Shaun Polczer, May 21, 2009, Calgary Herald, CALGARY - Federal Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt on Wednesday called for wholesale changes to speed the approvals process for new pipelines to carry oil and natural gas.
Speaking to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association in Calgary, Raitt said merely tinkering with the regulatory framework is not enough to ensure that pipelines are built fast enough to meet surging demand for Canadian energy, both at home and in export markets such as the United States.
In her speech, Raitt emphasized the need for sweeping legislative changes to make the system more transparent and efficient.
“Really significant improvements in performance are not possible without legislative changes, because so many areas of concern are embedded in different pieces of legislation that involve a wide range of federal departments and agencies,” she said.
“Making one-off changes to parts of the system without looking at how they are going to work with all the other parts is not the way to achieve a good outcome.”
Raitt made the comments a day after the federal government announced $1 billion over five years for greenhouse gas reduction research. A large part of that amount, $650 million, is being allocated to large-scale demonstration projects including carbon capture and storage. The monies are on top of the $2 billion committed by the Alberta government for carbon capture and sequestration.
Association president Brenda Kenney said Raitt’s pronouncements are “very, very welcome indeed. That’s really great news.”
Her group has been advocating wholesale changes to advance more than $80 billion worth of new energy infrastructure projects it says are critical to ensure the competitiveness of Canada’s economy and provide fair energy prices for consumers.
“Delays in decisions don’t make those projects safer or more environmentally sound,” she said. “We can’t keep fixing little things here and there when the system isn’t working properly.”
The news is cold comfort for companies like Imperial Oil Ltd. that have spent almost a decade steering the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline through a review process involving the National Energy Board, aboriginal communities and the joint review panel.
Last year, the panel pushed back the release date for its final report until late this year, subsequently pushing back the in-service date for the link from the Arctic Ocean to 2014 — more than a decade after the project was revived in 2001.
“It (the delay) was a major disappointment,” conceded Imperial spokesman Pius Rolheiser, which is leading a consortium of producers including Shell Canada and ConocoPhillips proposing to build and operate the $16.2-billion line.
However, he stopped short of endorsing wholesale changes to the current system.
“On behalf of the proponents, we’ve communicated our concerns,” he said. “We’ve also indicated our willingness to work with the sponsoring bodies to make the report-writing process more efficient.
“We’ve always been supportive of efforts to make the regulatory process more efficient, but at the same time we’re not looking for shortcuts. We want those permits we receive to have validity so they stand up.”
In her remarks, Raitt described Mackenzie as “central to our future energy security and our status as an energy superpower.” She said the government also supports a second Alaska pipeline, which Raitt said is benefiting from a “single window” entry into the Canadian regulatory system.