TransCanada factoring politics into plans for new pipelines: CEO

TransCanada Corp. is changing the way it tackles new projects, having learned the hard way how politics can affect construction schedules and costs, CEO Russ Girling said Monday. In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Girling said the company won’t start procuring materials or securing land for pipelines until it knows for sure it has regulatory approval in hand.

CALGARY — TransCanada Corp. is changing the way it tackles new projects, having learned the hard way how politics can affect construction schedules and costs, CEO Russ Girling said Monday.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Girling said the company won’t start procuring materials or securing land for pipelines until it knows for sure it has regulatory approval in hand.

TransCanada (TSX:TRP) has already sunk $2.5 billion into its controversial $7.6-billion Keystone XL pipeline, which has yet to be awarded a federal U.S. permit after a litany of delays and setbacks.

“We won’t make that mistake again,” said Girling.

It used to be that the company could line up its materials and land in parallel with the regulatory review, meaning the whole process from conception phase to startup would take two or three years.

Now, that time frame is more like six or seven years, Girling said.

In the past, the regulator was mainly concerned with how the pipeline could be built in the safest way possible. While it may have imposed some conditions, companies could expect a permit by the end of it, he said.

Now the main question regulators are asking seems to be whether pipelines should be built at all, Girling said.

“You don’t know whether you’ll get a permit or not. You can’t sort of embark on spending the money or starting your land negotiations.”

TransCanada recently embarked on a project to connect natural gas to a proposed export terminal on the B.C. coast and so far the company has spent a lot of time on the ground engaging with local communities.

If there was one thing TransCanada learned from the Keystone XL experience, Girling said, it was that “you probably can’t do enough of that.”

In the past, that project could have come on stream by 2015, but now it will take until between 2018 and 2020, Girling said.

He said the longer project timelines are going to have consequences.

“If we can’t react to society’s needs within a period of six or seven years, what kind of safety issues does that impose? What kind of cost issues does that impose on the economy? They’re quite dramatic.”

Just under a year ago, the Obama administration rejected the initial iteration of Keystone XL, which would have connected oilsands crude to Gulf Coast refineries, but said TransCanada was welcome to reapply.

TransCanada then decided to break the project into two parts, since only the northern portion crossing the Canada-U.S. border needed a federal permit to go ahead.

The more urgently needed southern portion, connecting an oversupplied storage hub in Oklahoma to Gulf Coast refineries, is about 35 per cent complete, Girling said.

In May, the company filed a new application for the northern portion, which will include a revised route through Nebraska to avoid ecologically sensitive areas. A final decision on that pipeline is expected early next year.

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

Just Posted

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Preliminary data shows Alberta’s suicide rate declined in 2020 — but some mental health critics say it’s too early to draw any conclusions since more dire pandemic impacts are only now being felt. (metrocreative stock)
Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020

But some experts say it’s too early to credit the pandemic

The union representing workers at the Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer confirmed the death of a worker on Wednesday. (Advocate file photo)
Union confirms death of worker from Olymel plant

An investigation by the UFCW 401 local has confirmed another death connected… Continue reading

Sunterra Market is preparing to open at Bower Place. (Photo from Facebook)
Sunterra Market to open in Red Deer in March

Bower Place to welcome grocery shoppers

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative MP David Sweet joins chorus calling for end to COVID-19 restrictions

OTTAWA — A Conservative MP has joined the chorus of voices calling… Continue reading

The Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade is seen in Lower Onslow, N.S., Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The RCMP says two officers who fired towards a civilian and another RCMP officer during last year’s mass shooting will remain on administrative duties until internal inquiries are completed .THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
N.S. RCMP who shot at firehall on administrative duty during internal reviews of case

HALIFAX — The RCMP says two officers who fired towards a civilian… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Efforts to increase Canada's ability to produce vaccines is among over 100 projects receiving new federal money. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Over 100 new projects to get $518 million in federal research funding

OTTAWA — Efforts to boost Canada’s ability to produce vaccines are among… Continue reading

Hassan Diab, whose allegations of involvement in a 1980 synagogue bombing were dismissed by French judges for lack of evidence, listens during a press release on the release of an external review on his extradition by the Justice Department on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Friday, July 26, 2019. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is signalling that Canada will stand up for Diab, an Ottawa sociology professor facing trial in France, following calls from human-rights advocates to intervene. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Trudeau signals support for Hassan Diab as Ottawa professor appeals case in France

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is signalling Canada will stand up… Continue reading

NDP MP Niki Ashton stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing anti-Semitism concerns ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Jewish groups raise anti-Semitism concerns ahead of NDP MP’s chat with Corbyn

OTTAWA — Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing concerns about anti-Semitism… Continue reading

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Public Health Agency of Canada budgets $5B for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada expects to spend up… Continue reading

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed optimism Wednesday that his government’s timeline for… Continue reading

UCP MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr. (File photo)
MLA Ron Orr: Benchmarks were achieved but goalposts were moved

Orr responds to concerns, calls on province to fully open Step 2

Most Read