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Canadian Finance Minister Offers to Cover Trans Mountain Delay Losses

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau on Wednesday announced an offer to cover any losses suffered by Kinder Morgan Canada due to political resistance against its Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project across British Columbia.

Morneau called delaying actions by B.C.’s left-leaning coalition government of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Green Party “unconstitutional.” He predicted project approvals granted in 2016 by the National Energy Board (NEB) and federal cabinet will eventually prevail.

The federal finance minister also repeated predictions, circulating in the national capital of Ottawa, that other companies would be willing to take over the project. But he added he has nothing to report about potential substitutes. None have stepped forward in the Canadian oil and gas industry capital, Calgary.

While waiting for court cases to dispel B.C. threats to cut flows on the line from the Alberta capital in Edmonton to a tanker dock in Vancouver, Morneau said “we have the ability to indemnify against the exceptional risk presented by the B.C. government.”

The federal finance minister set no ceiling on the potential amount of the political risk insurance. The cost estimate for the proposed tripling of the oilsands export line to 890,000 b/d stands at C$7.4 billion ($5.9 billion) but is liable to rise following a scheduled review.

Morneau reported that discussions continue to keep the project alive.

Construction of the Trans Mountain expansion has been suspended since April 8, with the company setting a May 31 deadline for an agreement that would enable work to resume. Political and legal confrontations that prompted the halt have only escalated.

The NDP-Green regime has filed a reference case in the B.C. Court of Appeal, seeking a verdict that the province can restrict oil pipeline flows in the name of environment protection.

A decision is also still awaited from the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal on a lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal Trans Mountain approvals, launched by multiple native and environmental groups with support from the B.C. government.

The Alberta government has introduced, but not yet used legislation enabling it to enforce a crude oil and refined-products supply boycott against B.C. -- an action that would cut traffic through Trans Mountain. The project affects all branches of the petroleum industry as a growth enabler for Canada’s top industrial natural gas consumer, Alberta thermal oilsands plants.

“We’re looking diligently to remove politically-inspired investment risk,” Morneau said.

“We appreciate his acknowledgment of the uncertainty created by the BC Government's stated intentions to 'do whatever it takes to stop the Trans Mountain Expansion Project' and the 'exceptional political risk' this federally and provincially-approved project continues to face,” Kinder Morgan Canada said.

The company statement recalled that before the hostile NDP-Green coalition won power in B.C. a year ago, the previous Liberal government agreed to the pipeline expansion as a result of environmental protection assurances and a benefits agreement.

“We appreciate [Morneau’s] recognition that a private company 'cannot resolve differences between governments.'”

The company added that the drop-dead date for a construction decision still stands. “The May 31 deadline for these discussions is necessitated by approaching construction windows, the time required to mobilize contractors and the need to commit significant new materials orders, among many other imperatives associated with such a large project."

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