B.C. and Alberta premiers reach pipeline agreement

Video: Premiers of Alberta & BC reach an agreement to move ahead with the pipeline development. Robin Gill reports.

VANCOUVER – B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford have reached a tentative agreement to support oil pipelines in the province.

The two premiers reached a broad framework agreement to work through B.C.’s five conditions to support the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, and other pipelines Tuesday morning.

Clark and Redford were originally supposed to meet Monday to discuss the economical impacts of the project, however the face-to-face was cancelled due to an apparent stalemate.

But in a surprise move, officials worked through the night to reach the agreement on moving energy resources to new markets.

Clark has previously said her support depends on the project meeting the five conditions, including a “fair share” of the economic benefits of the project.

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This condition has been a contentious point between the premiers for months and played a part in forcing Monday’s stalemate.

However, the premiers have since agreed that B.C. is free to negotiate directly with the industry, rather than looking for a side deal between the two provinces.

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“This is an important step to getting there,” Clark said. “Without this step, it would have been hard to make any real progress on those discussions.”

Redford said the process is complex and will take time.

“In all five areas we’re seeing progress. That doesn’t mean we snap our fingers overnight and it’s done,” she said.

B.C. has also agreed to endorse Redford’s push for a national energy strategy.

Clark’s other five conditions include, an environmental review, world-leading marine and land oil spill response and prevention systems, as well as addressing Aboriginal and First Nations rights.

While the framework means the two provinces agree on the five conditions, there is still work to be done in order to meet them.

Particularly, gaining First Nations support may be the toughest challenge, according to Global BC’s legislative bureau chief Keith Baldrey.

Since Clark announced the conditions, the two premiers have had an uneasy relationship, but tensions began to ease earlier this year when they met in Kelowna to declare they had shared goals, such as expanding export opportunities.

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Last month, a group of senior bureaucrats was appointed to create an energy export plan, which will be delivered by the end of this year.

Redford was in Vancouver Tuesday to speak at an event hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade.

The 1,600-kilometre Northern Gateway project would transport 550,000 barrels per day of oilsands crude from just outside Edmonton to a port in Kitimat, on the northern B.C. coast. Once at the coast, bituman would be loaded onto hundreds of tankers a year for transport to Asian markets.

Environmentalists and First Nations groups have voiced strong opposition to the project, arguing that the threat of oil spills on land and in the ocean outweigh any benefit the project could have.

Critics also fear that increased tanker traffic will have a detrimental effect on marine life in the pristine waterways of B.C.’s coast.

Today’s press conference with Christy Clark:

With files from the Canadian Press


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