Central Alberta’s energy sector applauds Keystone XL approval

But local economy hangs on whether Trump renegotiates terms of NAFTA

New U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be giving Alberta an inadvertent helping hand out of the recession with his approval on Tuesday of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It’s obviously great news for all of Alberta,” said Reg Warkentin, policy advocacy manager for the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.

As well as creating more jobs in oil processing plants along the Gulf of Mexico that will be refining Alberta oilsands product, Warkentin believes Keystone approval will also stimulate more investment in this province — and could increase the price of Alberta oil.

“Just having the access to get it (processing) done” will make a difference, he predicted.

The 1,179-km pipeline project by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. that would run from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb. was rejected by former president Barack Obama, who stated it would undercut American leadership in curbing reliance on carbon energy and addressing climate change.

But on Tuesday morning, President Trump signed executive orders advancing both Keystone XL and the U.S.-based Dakota Access pipelines, saying they would create more American jobs.

Trump also told reporters at the White House that the government would “renegotiate some of the terms” — and this tempered some local celebrations.

Peter Julien, CFO of CARE Industries, a Blackfalds company that specializes in the manufacturing of drilling and rig equipment, said that making more pipeline available for more oilsands product sounds positive — but the economic benefits will hang on the nature of future trade policies.

Whether new taxes are imposed and whether the North American Free Trade Agreement is ultimately renegotiated will have an effect. “It depends on what strings are attached,” said Julien, who’s nonetheless pleased with the “first step” of getting the Keystone XL Pipeline approved.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said city council has long stressed the importance of getting more pipeline infrastructure built to get Alberta oil to global markets. “We’re cautiously optimistic about the economic prospects” of Keystone XL, she said, but also hope these are balanced by proper consultation with those with environmental interests, such as aboriginal groups.

Proponents of the pipeline have argued that it’s less environmentally risky than transporting the product by rail.

Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller is pleased “more people will be getting back to work with the approval of Keystone.” Although America is our biggest trading partner, Alberta still needs to work with other provinces to open up even more markets for our natural resources on a global scale, she added.

Red Deer North MLA Kim Schreiner could not be reached for comment.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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