Saskatchewan premier concerned about Ontario and Quebec position on Energy East

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said Monday he believes the premiers of Ontario and Quebec are creating unnecessary barriers to the Energy East Pipeline by setting conditions for their support of the project.

Wall said he is concerned by the position taken by Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard, who said last week that greenhouse gas emissions among other issues must be considered in the pipeline’s development.

“I am surprised,” Wall said in Regina. “This is a straight-forward pipeline project. There should be a rigorous … National Energy Board process to make sure it passes all the environmental muster, all the safety muster, but that should be the only process involved.”

The $12-billion project would ship more than one million barrels of western crude daily from Alberta and Saskatchewan to oil refineries in Eastern Canada.

“I am concerned about barriers for the pipeline,” Wall said. “I am also very concerned with an additional item they have added to their list of seven whatever they are — conditions or demands — that Ontario and Quebec are making includes a (greenhouse gas) measure of the pipeline.”

TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) has filed an application with the National Energy Board to use a repurposed natural gas pipeline to carry crude two-thirds of the way across the country and building a new pipeline extension that would lead to Saint John, N.B.

Peter Watson, chairman of the National Energy Board, has said climate change policy is not within its purview and it doesn’t intend for its hearings to become hampered by that debate.

Watson said reviews must be conducted in a timely manner but he won’t hesitate to extend the legislated 15-month time limit if more information is needed or more stakeholders need an opportunity to be heard.

Wynne also wants assurances there will be consultations with First Nations and other communities in the path of the pipeline, an emergency response plan, and guarantees that Ontario’s current supply of natural gas is secure.

“We’ve never moved away from the position that we understand that this is in the best interests of country, that we do it in the right way, and that’s what the conversation with Premier Couillard was about, and that’s what my conversation with Premier Gallant has been about,” Wynne said Monday after meeting with New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.

“We understand that we are connected and that Alberta needs to move its resource and Ontario and Quebec and New Brunswick are part of that endeavour, but there are some principles that we need to adhere to.”

Gallant said the Ontario and Quebec position doesn’t damage the project’s prospects.

“I think these principles are very reasonable and very achievable,” Gallant said during a conference call from Toronto.

Despite the list of conditions, Gallant said he’s optimistic Ontario will support the project because Wynne sees the pipeline as important and beneficial.

“But I will add that this is a reminder that we should not sit on our hands and think that this project is a done deal,” he said.

“There is a process that is started and I think we as a province have to continuously show our support in why we think this is a good project.”