April 12, 2018 12:05 pm
Updated: April 12, 2018 12:34 pm

Kinder Morgan pipeline dispute: What to know if you haven’t been paying attention

WATCH: What's Ottawa's next move on the Trans Mountain pipeline project?

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Most Canadians have seen headlines of politicians and energy companies rumbling about Kinder Morgan‘s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The issue has been in the news for years, and now involves several players, from politicians to environmental advocates.

READ MORE: How Ottawa might try to save the Trans Mountain pipeline

Here’s what Canadians should know about the possible pipeline expansion — and the dispute it’s causing.

WATCH: Kinder Morgan threatens to cancel pipeline expansion


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What is Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion?

Energy company Kinder Morgan is hoping to expand its already existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from Strathcona County near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

The expansion would double the existing 1,150-km line and nearly triple its capacity. According to the company’s website, the system would increase capacity to 890,000 barrels a day from the current 300,000 barrels a day.

What’s the problem?

Kinder Morgan Canada said this week that it would scrap the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion unless all legal and jurisdictional challenges the project is facing are resolved by May 31.

The project has several roadblocks from politicians and environmental organizations who say it will lead to more oil spills and be potentially detrimental to wildlife.

READ MORE: Kinder Morgan decision to halt pipeline work a ‘devastating’ blow, says Scheer

First Nations officials and activists have also spoken out against it, saying the project cannot go forward unless Indigenous communities along the pipeline’s path are consulted.

Several protests have erupted at the Trans Mountain facilities in recent weeks, with British Columbia police arresting about 200 people since mid-March.

WATCH: Trudeau doesn’t have consent of all First Nations, pipeline protester says

What are politicians saying?

British Columbia: B.C.’s New Democratic government fiercely opposes the project, fearing that an expansion would increase the risk of an oil spill.

Liberal government: The Trudeau Liberals approved the expansion in November 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been a strong supporter of the project, saying it is necessary for the Canadian economy.

Trudeau has long tried to convince B.C. Premier John Horgan to back down and let the project go ahead.

“I had a long conversation with Premier Horgan last night, in which I impressed upon him the importance of working together and respecting the federal responsibility for protecting things that are in the national interest,” Trudeau said earlier this week.

WATCH: B.C.-Alberta pipeline battle heats up

But the prime minister must walk a fine line, as being too forceful with the province means possibly upsetting B.C. voters.

Alberta: As B.C. opposes the expansion, Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley has been pushing for the project to be built.

This week, Notley said Alberta will buy the Trans Mountain pipeline project — if that’s what it takes to get it done.

“We are considering a number of financial options to ensure that the Trans Mountain expansion is built, up to and including purchasing the pipeline outright, if it were to come to that,” Notley said in the statement Tuesday. “But it is not the only model we’re considering.”

READ MORE: If Canada has a plan to save the Trans Mountain pipeline project, cabinet isn’t saying

What’s happening to gas prices?

Gas prices in Canada are expected to rise this summer, and issues over the Trans Mountain expansion are one reason.

Prices in parts of B.C. have already surged to $1.50 a litre in some locations. But the area also faces a longer-term supply shortage that Trans Mountain would help alleviate, said senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, Dan McTeague.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain fiasco could worsen pain at the pump for all Canadians this summer

The pipeline expansion would “see more gasoline delivered to Vancouver from Edmonton, thus forcing prices down and relieving the area from a chronic shortage,” McTeague wrote in a recent analysis of market conditions.

The pipeline issue is expected to put pressure on the Canadian dollar, which could then drive up gas prices for the rest of the country as well.

WATCH: Morneau says government is looking at ‘all tools’ to get pipeline built

What’s next?

Although the federal government says it is exploring all regulatory, legal and financial alternatives, it’s been fairly mum on what, exactly, the plan is.

READ MORE: Escalating Kinder Morgan dispute prompts Trudeau to call joint meeting with Notley, Horgan

Some pipeline supporters have urged Trudeau to invoke the Federal Emergencies Act. That would enable Trudeau to do things like halt lawsuits involving the project.

But that wouldn’t resolve disagreement over the issue.

— With files from Global News reporters Monique Scotti and Erica Alini, and The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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