N.W.T. officials promote pipeline

American legislators have been receptive this week to hearing about Canada’s natural gas supply, even though it’s assumed any Canadian showing up on Capitol Hill to discuss the environment is promoting the oilsands, says a Northwest Territories official.

WASHINGTON — American legislators have been receptive this week to hearing about Canada’s natural gas supply, even though it’s assumed any Canadian showing up on Capitol Hill to discuss the environment is promoting the oilsands, says a Northwest Territories official.

“Everybody thinks we’re here to talk about the oilsands, and everybody says our Mackenzie pipeline gas is just going to go to the oilsands anyway and we’re saying no, that’s not true,” Bob McLeod, investment and industry minister for the Northwest Territories, said Wednesday.

Capitol Hill power brokers are “very much” opposed to Alberta’s oilsands, he added, a reality that federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice hasn’t been keen to discuss during his own visits to Washington in recent months.

McLeod is in Washington this week meeting with officials at the State Department and congressional representatives to promote the Mackenzie Valley pipeline as an environmentally friendly source of fuel for an energy-mad nation that wants to end its dependence on foreign oil.

He’s also on a fact-finding mission to learn more about the hefty loan guarantees the U.S. government will likely provide to the Mackenzie pipeline’s chief competition — the Alaska pipeline.

Measures working their way through Congress could bring more than $40 billion in financial support to the Alaskan project.

Producer Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XON) also recently announced an agreement to work with TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) on the pipeline.

“We need a level playing field,” McLeod said.

“The loans virtually guarantee the Alaska pipeline will go ahead and we haven’t secured all of the fiscal arrangements in Canada as yet, and we want to see our pipeline go ahead too.”

Low-carbon fuel initiatives being considered by Congress are keeping the Mackenzie pipeline on the radar for legislators in Washington, McLeod said.