Not much changes after B.C. and Alberta premiers meet over oilsands pipeline

CALGARY – A quick meeting between the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia ended Monday with neither woman willing to budge on how they think the risks and benefits of West Coast-bound oil pipelines ought to be divvied up.

“I would say it was frosty,” was how B.C.’s Christy Clark described the 20-minute conversation with her Alberta counterpart, Alison Redford in Calgary.

“I wouldn’t say we made a whole lot of progress on it.”

Clark said she wanted to reiterate the five conditions under which her government would allow oil pipelines — Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project and the expansion to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain line — to deliver crude from Alberta to the West Coast for export to Asia.

The three most important conditions, Clark said, have to do with the environment. The review process must be successfully completed, there must be “world leading” marine spill prevention and response and top-notch land oil-spill prevention, response and recovery.

B.C. also wants the projects to meet aboriginal treaty rights.

The most contentious condition so far has been B.C.’s demand to receive a share of fiscal and economic benefits from the pipeline to reflect the risk it would face.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who spoke to reporters shortly after Clark did, said she has no problem with Clark’s views on how environmental and First Nations issues ought to be handled.

It’s the fifth one — the question of economic benefit — that sticks out.

“I’m an Albertan and when you talk about sharing Alberta’s royalties with other jurisdictions, things tend to get a little bit frosty,” she said.

“Royalties cannot be on the table. Revenue that is coming to Albertans, whether it’s royalty revenue or tax revenue, cannot be on the table.”

Clark says Redford seems “very focused on the fifth condition” and that the pipelines absolutely will not be allowed if the environmental conditions aren’t met.

“There’s a reason it’s the fifth condition because it’s actually the least important of them.”

Clark has not specified how she sees economic benefits flowing from Alberta to B.C., but that it won’t necessarily be a slice of the royalties.

But Redford said Clark didn’t take royalties off the table, and that’s a problem.

“You can certainly understand that as an Albertan, as the premier of Alberta, that’s a non-starter for us,” Redford said.

Northern Gateway, proposed by Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB), would ship some 550,000 barrels of bitumen per day from Alberta to the west coast port of Kitimat for shipment by tanker to world markets. A regulatory panel is currently weighing the $6-billion proposal.

Trans Mountain, a $4.1-billion proposal by Kinder Morgan, would expand an existing pipeline from Alberta to the Vancouver area. It’s expected to increase tanker traffic in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet.