Alberta refuses to sign western premiers' agreement amid Trans Mountain pipeline spat

Gwen Vasquez
May 27, 2018

By Thursday, the fate of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion project should be much clearer.

As evidence of intent to punish, about one-third of the statement of claim is devoted to a recounting of a trail of events that began Jan 30. But in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, B.C. argues Alberta can not punish it for that stand by cutting off domestic fuel supplies.

From left to right: Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, Alberta Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman and Yukon Deputy Premier Ranj Pillai take questions from media at the 2018 Western Premiers' Conference in Yellowknife on May 23, 2018. Two months later, the B.C. government, then led by premier Christy Clark's Liberals, gave approval to the project. On April 8, Kinder Morgan Limited (KML) suspended all non-essential activities and related spending on its $7.4 billion oil pipeline expansion project in the face of mounting legal challenges from British Columbia.

Next day, Alberta energy minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd expanded on the threat on the floor of the Alberta legislature.

Kinder Morgan said Monday it has nothing to add to last week's statement from CEO Steve Kean in which he repeated the May 31 deadline and said that discussions are ongoing but "we are not yet in alignment". "That is not a thing we are going to let happen".

She and other Alberta ministers made similar statements when Bill 12 was introduced, debated and passed, leaving no doubt that "its objective was to authorize the government of Alberta to reduce supplies of crude oil, natural gas and refined fuels to cause economic harm to British Columbians in order to punish and put pressure on B.C".

But he later told reporters that Alberta's demand for a pipeline pact failed.

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If Alberta does restrict oil transports to B.C. gas pumps, he said, the province is prepared to ask a judge to make an order against it through an injunction. "The other is gasoline or jet fuel to be used by citizens to move around freely", he said.

It's a powerful argument, relying as it does on the words of Alberta politicians themselves about their intentions in crafting Bill 12.

Kinder Morgan knows Ottawa and Alberta are desperate.

Premier Horgan says the reference case amounts to nothing more than asking the courts to clarify jurisdiction and vet some proposed changes in the provincial Environment Management Act.

"This project is essentially an expansion and a debottlenecking of an existing pipeline so it's very hard to build the project without selling the original Trans Mountain asset, which is of course a very complicated prospect". "We will use every tool in our tool box to stop the project from going ahead".

Enbridge Inc., North America's biggest crude pipelines operator, has denied it is negotiating to take over the Trans Mountain expansion project.

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