Friday, August 26, 2011

Pipeline, Politcians...Hollow?

“Enbridge touts support, but others call deals “hollow.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL, dated Thursday, August 25, 2011 and written by a Nathan Vanderklippe.

Seems the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to the BC west coast from near Edmonton is another headliner. Last blog posted was headlined, “Pipeline to west coast will be tough to stop.” There, the premise then was noted as a metaphor of a “slow train coming.” It’s just a matter of time. Seems too, the above noted article is feeding that premise. This time, it’s “let’s make a deal.”

Deal? who with?

Enbridge Inc. said it has lined up critical industry support for its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to ship Canadian crude to Asia. Like a seasoned politician, Enbridge won’t say whom with. All the National Energy Board (NEB) has received from Enbridge are “Precedent Agreements” from major oil producers. So, what’s the deal?

“Under the agreements, would-be oil shippers are not obligated to send a drop of crude through the pipe.” Surely, based on experience with the NEB, economists there will want assurance rather the speculation before a permit is issued.

Still, Enbridge’s ploy seems to follow that old adage, “if you build it, they will come.” For some, it’s not that simply.  Those “precedent agreements” are non-binding, i.e. if you commit no money, no oil, (you will) receive no financial penalty for backing out.

“That prompted one lawyer who has analyzed the agreements to call Enbridge’s claims of commercial support “hollow.”

Don’t forget too, the proposed project lacks the support of the biggest hurdle in the way: British Columbia as a whole that includes a lot of First Nations.

Yes, there still is a slow-train coming. The NEB still has a job to do to ensure the project makes economic sense and especially make Enbridge disclose bona fide deals. After all,  “hollow” agreements or deals will not fill those pipes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Slow Train Coming?"

“Pipeline to West Coast will be tough to stop”

So read the headline published in the Calgary Herald, Friday, July 29th, 2011 and written by a Barbara Yaffe.

The legend Bob Dylan wrote and sung his somewhat post born-again song, “Slow Train Coming” which was also the title of that iconic album. With that song: seems Bob had implied the impending return of Jesus as just a matter of time.

In the above noted article: seems the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline is just a matter of time. After all, it is “in the public/national interest.” A motto/slogan adopted by the regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB). It is no secret the proposed pipeline is very contentious with local British Columbia groups such as opposition parties, environmentalists, and importantly, Aboriginal groups.  Nonetheless, “national” reps as high as the federal Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives gave strong preliminary backing to the Gateway pipeline. Much to the chagrin of the BC groups.

In the history and process of NEB applications, local interests have never foiled national interests, save only one, the Sumas Electrical Project of 2001 between Washington and southern BC. Still, regarding the proposed Gateway pipeline, is there a “slow training coming?”

“New Democrats and Liberals have sponsored a parliamentary motion and a private member’s bill respectively against tankers plying B.C.’s pristine waters.” Will that be enough to foil the project? Those politicians might have to pull out the trump card held by Aboriginal groups, in this case BC First Nations as they depend on river and marine resources for their livelihoods and have expressed a clear no to the proposed pipeline passing through traditional territory.

And, “it’s also worth noting Canadian courts have often bowed to aboriginal concerns in past legal challenges involving land and resources.”

As a former NEB employee, economists there will certainly echo Enbridge’s and the federal government’s argument that the mega-project will result in thousands of jobs as it would transport oilsands crude and span from near Edmonton west to the proposed pristine port of Kitimat, BC.

Aboriginal groups in northern Alberta seemed to have embraced the oilsands with community investment strategies that include well-paid jobs afforded by the big oil companies. Still, will the proposed Gateway pipeline project be different?

“This country has bountiful resources, much needed by fast-developing Asian countries. There really is no stopping this train.” Seems, the BC groups need to embrace Dylan’s metaphor of a “slow train coming.”