Enbridge taking time on deciding next move on Northern Gateway pipeline

CALGARY – Enbridge’s CEO says a decision on whether or not to build the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline across British Columbia may come in late 2016, though the company is not concerned with sticking to a certain timeline.

Al Monaco also says a ban on tanker traffic along B.C.’s north coast, made official by the new Trudeau Liberal government last month, does not mean Enbridge is giving up — even though many critics have said the ban effectively kills the project.

Monaco says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr have both shown they’re open to listen to Enbridge’s point of view and have talked about the importance of opening new markets for Canadian crude.

Northern Gateway would ship more than half a million barrels a day of Alberta crude to the port of Kitimat, B.C., with the aim of sending tankers to lucrative markets across the Pacific.

Enbridge has had its permit to build Northern Gateway, with 209 conditions attached, since mid-2014. Instead of laying down pipe straight away, Enbridge has opted to take the time necessary to build First Nations support.

There has been vocal First Nations opposition to Northern Gateway in B.C., where most land is not covered by treaties, but Monaco says 28 aboriginal communities have signed on to the project as equity partners.

Monaco said the downturn in oil prices has meant a lower level of production growth in Alberta, meaning Enbridge should be able to serve customers without Northern Gateway for the next little while.

“So in a way, the timing isn’t too concerning to us. We continue to work on the kind of things we need to as far as communities, First Nations and governments,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s targets for 2016.

Earlier Thursday, Enbridge said shareholders will get a 14 per cent increase to their quarterly dividend, starting with the March 1 payment.

The new dividend rate will be 53 cents per common share (TSX:ENB), up from 46.5 cents.

Enbridge, which operates a pipeline system throughout Canada and the United States, also provided 2016 estimates for cash flow and pre-tax earnings.

It estimates between $4.4 billion and $4.8 billion of adjusted earnings before interest and taxes next year, and between $3.80 and $4.50 per share of available cash flow from operations.

The company said last month in its third-quarter earnings report that 2015 available cash flow from operations is estimated at between $3.30 and $4 per common share.

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