Prime minister promised new timeline on TMX pipeline in weeks: Alberta premier

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CALGARY — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the federal government has promised a fast-track timeline to resume construction on the stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

“The prime minister pledged to me that a clear and reliable timeline to resume construction will be established within weeks, not months,” Notley told reporters Thursday after a meeting with officials and oil industry leaders.

“We’ve both instructed our officials to get to work immediately and burn the midnight oil on that task.”

Notley made the comments after she met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a day earlier in Edmonton.

Notley said she is satisfied Trudeau is committed to getting the project back online in good time, and her government is willing to work with him to make it happen.

But she said she expects fast action from Ottawa given the investor uncertainty that has rippled out in all directions from last week’s Federal Court of Appeal decision on the project.

“We must find a solution to this problem quickly. We cannot let it just sit on the vine,” she said.

The Trans Mountain expansion project would triple the capacity of the existing line, which takes oil products from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

Alberta says the project is critical and it is losing billions of dollars a year because the oil currently shipped to B.C. is sold at a discount to a captive market in the United States.

A week ago, the Federal Court of Appeal Court quashed the project on the grounds that the federal government failed to properly consult Indigenous groups and the National Energy Board did not take into account the impact of increased tanker traffic on marine life, particularly endangered whales.

Trudeau has said all options to respond are being looked at, including appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, but has indicated the best path forward is following the dictates of the unanimous court decision.

Notley said Thursday that full consultation with Indigenous groups must be carried out, but said it’s critical to the construction timeline that the government fix the marine impact portion while avoiding a lengthy hearing process.

She noted the federal government has already done a lot of work to beef up environmental safety measures on the B.C. coast, but that this work was not considered by the National Energy Board.

“There are a bunch of ways that the legislation can be changed to address the environmental concerns without kickstarting a whole new hearing process. And that’s what we’re worried about,” said Notley.

She said the hearings process “allows for a whole bunch of legal gamesmanship that means no certificate is ever issued.”

Last week, Notley urged the federal government to immediately appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. But on Thursday she said while she still believes the decision needs to be challenged, an immediate appeal may hamstring the more pressing issue of getting construction restarted as soon as possible.

The $7.4-billion project has become the Crown jewel in a policy espoused by both Notley and Trudeau that the economy and the environment are not mutually exclusive goals but can work hand in glove to achieve a prosperous, sustainable future.

To that end, Notley’s government had supported Trudeau’s federal climate change plan, including a tax on carbon, while Trudeau’s government, in a bid to keep the fledgling Trans Mountain pipeline alive, has purchased the existing line, and other assets, outright for $4.5 billion.

After the Federal Court decision, Notley pulled her government out of the federal climate plan, saying Alberta will return when it is satisfied the project is back on track.

She said Thursday that Alberta will stay out for now, and that its participation in the plan was always contingent on the success of Trans Mountain.

— By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

The Canadian Press