Premiers support pipeline for shipping Alberta oil east

HALIFAX — A growing number of Canada’s premiers are backing a proposal to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada.

HALIFAX — A growing number of Canada’s premiers are backing a proposal to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada.

Premier Alison Redford of Alberta said she was delighted to see her provincial counterparts support the idea following a discussion she had with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois late Thursday.

“We are pleased by the fact that there are so many provinces that are interested in talking about what the challenges and opportunities are,” Redford said after a meeting of the premiers in Halifax.

“This is an important policy discussion for us to have and there’s absolutely no reason to think that this is in any way what I would call an exclusive discussion.”

Redford and Marois have agreed to set up working groups to examine the economic benefits and environmental risks of pumping Albertan crude through Quebec.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said he was encouraged that Marois is keeping an open mind about the possible venture.

“I think that’s obviously very positive because, in our view, the whole issue of resource development, which is so critical to the future prosperity of Canada, can only be done in co-operation with all levels of government,” Oliver said after giving a speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

The latest plan would reverse the flow of an existing pipeline to bring Alberta oil to customers in the eastern half of Canada, and could result in slightly lower gasoline prices in that region. The project is being reviewed by the National Energy Board.

There are actually two proposals to ship western crude to the East, including one by Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) and another by TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP).

The Enbridge proposal involves expanding capacity on some pipes in the Great Lakes region and reversing the flow of another between Montreal and Sarnia, Ont.

Rival TransCanada plans to convert some of its empty natural gas mainline to oil. The company behind the contentious Keystone XL pipeline is looking to sound out customer interest in the East in the new year.

Redford said she has also been in discussions for months with New Brunswick Premier David Alward about the feasibility of shipping oil to his province.

“This is driven by the private sector and this ultimately will work if the private sector believes there is a business case and opportunity for that to happen,” Alward said.

Prior to their meeting, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the idea presents an opportunity to build national energy security, stimulate private investment in the East and expand market opportunities for petroleum producers in the West.

“I think it’s a good story for all of us if we do it properly,” Selinger said.

Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter and Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island have also voiced their support.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said the proposed development does little to change her government’s opposition to a pipeline running through her province if it doesn’t secure greater economic benefits.