Albertans 'kept in the dark' on status of Trans Mountain Pipeline review, Liberal leader says

Albertans 'kept in the dark' on status of Trans Mountain Pipeline review, Liberal leader says

There's too much secrecy about the status of the review underway on the Trans Mountain pipeline, Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan said Friday on a campaign stop in Calgary.

Khan says Albertans have the right to know whether the federal cabinet will make its decision by May 23 in accordance with the 90-day deadline set by the NEB in its last report.

"We have been kept in the dark on this important project. Alberta Liberals are demanding that the NDP and federal governments immediately provide an update to Albertans," he said.

The 1,150-kilometre TMX expansion project would boost the pipeline's capacity to roughly 890,000 barrels a day. It would allow Alberta's oilpatch to transport much more product to coastal B.C., where it would then be shipped to markets in Asia.

Planned work on the new pipeline was stalled last summer after the Federal Court of Appeal nullified licensing for the $7.4-billion expansion, quashed cabinet's initial approval and halted further work.

The NEB was ordered to reassess the pipeline expansion, including the impact of increased oil tanker traffic on the region's endangered killer whale population.

On Feb. 22, the NEB reiterated its approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion with 16 new recommendations designed to better protect marine life on the B.C. coast, where the line ends.

But the court's second requirement — a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities — is still ongoing.

On March 13, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Indigenous consultation efforts on the Trans Mountain expansion project are expected to wrap up within 90 days, paving the way for a new cabinet decision on the project by summer.

Khan, who practised Indigenous rights and constitutional law, says he understands that First Nations concerns must be fully addressed.

"We know the Indigenous consultations must happen," he said.

Khan also said the province should cancel the NDP's oil-by-rail plan, calling it risky and costly.

"It won't be fully operational until July 2020. The oil industry has already said it's a bad idea. We don't want Alberta taxpayers stuck with another multibillion-dollar NDP boondoggle," he said.

Khan suggested Alberta should pursue getting the scuttled Energy East pipeline project going again.

TransCanada pulled the plug on the multibillion-dollar plan to add 1,500 kilometres of pipeline to an existing network of more than 3,000 kilometres, which would have been converted from carrying natural gas to carrying oil.

"We can replace oil imports in Eastern Canada with more ethical and environmentally-responsible, made-in-Alberta oil. We demand the feds show national leadership and restart this important project. It's a win-win-win," he said.