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Ottawa approves $2.3B expansion of natural gas transportation system in Alberta

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The federal government has approved a $2.3-billion expansion of a natural gas gathering and transportation system in Alberta.

In a statement released early Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said expanding the NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) system would create thousands of jobs and contribute about $1.2 billion to Alberta’s economy.

He said the decision to approve the expansion with 35 conditions was based on facts, science, concerns of potentially impacted Indigenous communities and wildlife considerations.

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“We want good projects to get done, moving our natural resources to new markets and creating good jobs,” O’Regan said in the statement. “This means meeting our duty to meaningfully consult with potentially impacted Indigenous communities and addressing risks to the environment and species at risk, particularly.”

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The NGTL system transports natural gas produced in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin to markets in Canada and the United States, and stretches throughout Alberta and into northeastern British Columbia.

The approved expansion will add 344 kilometres of new pipeline to the existing 24,568-kilometre system. The new pipeline will stretch from west of Red Deer to near Grande Prairie, Alta.

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Natural Resources Canada said the expansion will help facilitate Canada’s planned phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030.

O’Regan said the federal government’s conditions for the expansion include measures to help mitigate the disruption of the project’s construction on the local caribou habitat.

Under the condition, NGTL and its owner TC Energy must restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat, which Natural Resources Canada says is 30 times the size of the habitat impacted by the project.

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An Indigenous Working Group must also be established under the conditions to assist with the planning of restoration and monitoring for the protection of the Little Smoky Caribou range.

TC Energy has yet to comment on the government’s approval.

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The project is expected to create up to 2,920 direct jobs during construction, the federal release said, while adding 344 kilometres of new pipeline to the existing Nova system from west of Red Deer in central Alberta to near Grande Prairie in the northwestern part of the province.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage says the expansion is a “key infrastructure project” for the province’s natural gas industry.

“Despite months of delay, we are pleased the federal government has approved this key infrastructure project, which will create significant economic benefits and good jobs for Albertans, at a time they are needed the most,”  she said.

“The project was expected to be under construction this summer but, as a result of delays by Ottawa, the bulk of construction is not expected to get underway until 2021.”

–With files from The Canadian Press