TransCanada seeks open regulatory system for pipeline

TransCanada Corp. is not chasing any public funding for a potential west-to-east oil pipeline, but the Calgary-based company is calling for a transparent regulatory system.

Premier David Alward spent three days in Alberta this week talking to political leaders, oil executives and touring the oil sands as a part of his push for a new west-to-east oil pipeline.

Alward told a Tuesday news conference that New Brunswick was open for business.

Shawn Howard, a spokesperson for TransCanada Corp., said the support from politicians is appreciated but that is not what is needed for any future projects to succeed.

“The other part of this is making sure there is an open, transparent regulatory process as you move a project like this from one end of the country to the other that is where some of these things get tied up, sometimes unnecessarily,” Howard said.

“That is one of the biggest areas of support that governments can provide, making sure the regulatory process is well understood and is going to be transparently with a reasonable time frame for that to take place.”

TransCanada has said it wants to convert an existing, underused natural gas line to do the job, but it would be up to the National Energy Board to approve the projects. The company has not yet formally submitted a proposal to the regulator.

Along with paying for upgrading the existing natural gas pipeline, there would need to be money spent to bring the pipeline into New Brunswick.

Alward and Alberta Premier Alison Redford spoke about the pipeline idea’s benefits for their provinces at a news conference on Tuesday. Both premiers said they did not believe any pipeline project would need public funds.

TransCanada’s Howard said the project would be driven by market fundamentals and not rely on taxpayer funds.

Howard would not say whether the corporation has had discussions with oil companies in Atlantic Canada about entering into long-term contracts for oil from western Canada.

But he said those long-term contracts would be required for the pipeline idea become reality.

“It has to move beyond just yes we’re interested to we are prepared to sign these long-term contracts because that lets us go out and raise money in the market, get loans, those kinds of things that we need to do to finance a project like this and then move forward through the regulatory process,” he said.

Alberta is interested in the project because oil from that province is now being sent to the United States, where there is a glut. That means oil producers are getting $20 to $40 less per barrel than the world price.

Those lower prices translate into lower royalties for the provincial government and that is causing a potential multi-billion dollar deficit in Alberta.

A pipeline to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John would allow Alberta producers to charge the higher world price.

The pipeline construction could add 2,000 jobs and it could also mean more long-term refining jobs in New Brunswick.

The possibility of new jobs is fuelling interest among New Brunswick politicians.

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