Canadian government green-lights Trans Mountain expansion, again

The Canadian government re-approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX), which will boost the amount of oil that flows from Alberta to British Columbia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet voted to go ahead with the expansion on June 18. Trudeau said the cabinet had taken heed of a federal court’s ruling in August 2018, which halted the expansion, and called for the government to do additional review and consultation with indidgeous groups.

“This project has the potential to create thousands of middle-class jobs for Canadians. We also believe TMX can solve a core economic challenge we face.” Trudeau said, noting that it will allow Canada to sell more oil to countries other than the U.S.

When completed, it will nearly triple the pipeline’s capacity by allowing up to an additional 590,000 barrels to flow through it daily.

The 800 mile-long pipeline takes oil from Western Canada, largely Alberta, to British Columbia. The expansion will add a second pipeline, allowing Canada to get larger amounts of oil to the Asian markets.

Trudeau was widely expected to press ahead with the project. His government purchased the pipeline in 2018 with the intention of speeding up the expansion.

Re-approving Trans Mountain’s expansion will help Trudeau in October’s federal elections. His conservative critics have jumped other policies such as carbon taxes and a proposed oil tanker ban as evidence that Trudeau places environmentalism ahead of Canada’s economic prosperity.

While environmentalists have criticized the expansion, critics on the right, particularly in Western Canada, have criticized him for not building enough pipelines. Lack of pipelines was a central grievance in a trucker convoy that traveled from Western Canada to Ottawa in February.

Trudeau said the pipeline expansion was consistent with his environmentalist policies. He said that Canada needed to take advantage of its existing resources to invest in a clean-energy future. He said profits from Trans Mountain would be invested in clean energy projects.

“We do not see the goals as irreconcilable,” he said.

Western Canada’s oil sands have struggled with the worldwide decline of oil prices. Its oil has a lower energy density, and has a higher transport cost because of its location in landlocked Western Canada.

It is unclear how quickly the project will move forward, but Trudeau suggested it would happen quickly.

“The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season,” Trudeau said.

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.

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