Approval of Mackenzie pipeline met with both joy and outrage

CALGARY — The National Energy Board’s approval of the long-delayed Mackenzie natural gas pipeline has been heralded as both an economic boon to the people of the North and as an environmental blow to the region.

CALGARY — The National Energy Board’s approval of the long-delayed Mackenzie natural gas pipeline has been heralded as both an economic boon to the people of the North and as an environmental blow to the region.

Northwest Territories Industry Minister Bob McLeod called the decision “an early Christmas present.”

“This is an important milestone for a project that could provide significant economic and environmental benefits for the Northwest Territories and for Canada,” he said.

The lead partner on the $16.2-billion project, Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO) was similarly pleased.

“It’s a vital step. It’s a significant step. It’s a very positive step for the project,” said Imperial spokesman Pius Rolheiser.

“But it’s only one of a number of necessary steps that need to take place, milestones that need to be achieved before this project could become a reality.”

The federal watchdog said it has attached 264 conditions to the project’s approval in areas such as engineering, safety and environmental protection.

The next step is for the federal cabinet to approve the energy board’s decision, after which point the project’s backers would need to seek a number of other permits.

The proposed 1,220-kilometre Mackenzie pipeline would carry natural gas from near the coast of the Beaufort Sea in the N.W.T. to southern markets.

In 2007, Imperial estimated the project’s cost at $16.2 billion. And even with the energy board’s decision, the pipeline’s future is by no means certain, since the company has said it won’t move on the project until at least 2018.

Stephen Hazell, who participated in the lengthy regulatory hearings on behalf of environmental group Sierra Club, likened the project to Monty Python’s famous dead parrot sketch.

“If it’s not deceased, it sure looks like it,” he said.

“It’s a good thing that the Mackenzie Gas Project is dead, because this decision is a real huge step backwards.”

Just under a year ago, a federally appointed joint review panel published a long-awaited report on the environmental and socio-economic impacts the project could have on the region.

That nearly 700-page report came after months of hearings throughout the Northwest Territories and years of delay. It concluded that the pipeline’s impacts would not be significant — if every one of the its 176 recommendations were followed.

“On every single count where sustainability is relevant, (the NEB has) rejected it,” Hazell said.

For instance, the JRP recommended Mackenzie gas be used as a clean-burning fuel for power generation and not as a power source for oilsands operations, which have been heavily criticized for their environmental impacts.

In its report, the NEB said it is not its place to determine how the gas be used.

“Nevertheless, we believe that augmenting the Canadian supply of natural gas, a relatively clean-burning and efficient fuel source, is of benefit to the Canadian public. Greater gas supply in the market increases the potential that fuels with higher greenhouse gas outputs would be preferentially displaced,” the NEB said.

Hazell said the NEB’s logic strikes him as “completely bizarre.”

The board also declined to weigh the long-term cumulative impacts of the project.

“Nobody’s prepared to look beyond the end of their nose,” Hazell said.

There are also many questions around the economics, given the enormous volumes of lower-cost shale gas flowing from regions much closer to market.

TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) and ExxonMobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM) — which are also involved in Mackenzie — are planning to build a much larger natural gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope.

Imperial’s Rolheiser called Mackenzie a “significant vital supply source” for North America.

“Basically for gas in the Mackenzie delta to be viable, it needs to be cost-competitive. That’s our challenge,” he said.

“We’re talking about a project that would come on stream at earliest, late in this decade and would operate for 20-plus years following that. So we really need to look beyond current market conditions. We really need to take a long view here.”

Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert said the Mackenzie project would benefit the province. The liquids-rich gas would supply Alberta’s petrochemical industry and keep pipelines full, keeping costs down for producers.

But he acknowledged there are headwinds.

“Obviously with the supply that exists in North America today, and the price point, it’s probably going to be a challenging decision to make,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ice shifted to the shoreline at Sylvan Lake on April 21. (Photo contributed by Andrea Swainson)
Icy shores of Sylvan Lake

A local photographer has captured how the ice has shifted to the… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

A boat sits idle on the banks of Villa Victoria Dam, the main water supply for Mexico City residents, on the outskirts of Toluca, Mexico, Thursday, April 22, 2021. The mayor of Mexico City said the drought was the worst in 30 years, and that problem can be seen at the series of reservoirs that bring in water from other states to supply the capital. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the 4th Women’s March in Los Angeles. Jenner has been an Olympic hero, a reality TV personality and a transgender rights activist. Jenner has been consulting privately with Republican advisers as she considers joining the field of candidates seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a likely recall election later this year. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Jenner adds celebrity, questions to California governor race

Celebrity activist immediately stands out in a growing field

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 file photo, Jeremy Fleming, head of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in London. Western countries risk losing control of technologies that are key to internet security and economic prosperity to nations with competing values like China and Russia if they don’t act to deal with the threat, one of the U.K.’s top spy chiefs warned on Friday, April 23, 2021. “Significant technology leadership is moving East” and causing a conflict of interests and values, Jeremy Fleming, director of government electronic surveillance agency GCHQ, said in a speech. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
UK spy chief says West faces ‘moment of reckoning’ on tech

China’s Foreign Ministry condemn the remarks

Brooke Henderson, of Canada, watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Canadian Brooke Henderson vaults into tie for fourth at LPGA Tour event

Henderson is sixth in the world women’s golf rankings

Switzerland’s skip Silvana Tirinzoni makes a call during a women’s curling match against Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Natacha Pisarenko
Previously unbeaten women’s teams suffer setbacks at Grand Slam curling event

Top six women’s and men’s teams qualify for the playoffs.

FILE - Gal Gadot arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gadot is using her Hollywood star power to spotlight remarkable women from around the world. The “Wonder Woman” actor is host and executive producer of a new documentary series “National Geographic Presents IMPACT with Gal Gadot,” premiering Monday, April 26. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Gal Gadot spotlights women’s stories in new docuseries

First episode follows a young Black figure skating coach in Detroit

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino listens to speakers during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Retaking language test unfair during COVID-19: applicants to new residency pathway

New program aims to grant 90,000 essential workers and international graduates permanent status

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Most Read