Reality lost in big pipeline debate – by Diane Francis (National Post – April 7, 2012)

 The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper

Talk recently about the possibility of Chinese workers building a pipeline through British Columbia threatens the project’s future more than does any statements by First Nations leaders, Robert Redford, Greens or New Democrats.

It’s also an indication that the private sector does not get it. The pipeline will only be built if Albertans, British Columbians and B.C. First Nations make a deal.

This must be an Alberta-B.C. negotiation. This is not about the federal government or regulators. And there’s no room for foreigners or those financed by them such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club or groups that are fronts from rival oil producers in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia or Russia. It’s apparent to me that some opaque “environmental groups” don’t disclose their donors or real agendas and have targeted Canada’s oil sands. I have written about ending foreign intervention in the regulatory process and foreigners are being excluded. This is not about what companies and their foreign customers want to do. Here is the playbook for a deal:

1. A pipeline through B.C.’s pristine territory must be built and operated with a minimum of environmental impact. The pipeline should be buried, have sensors all along and lands post-construction should be returned to their original state. This pipeline should be leak proof. If such safeguards add $5 or more to the cost of a barrel, then so be it.

2. British Columbians must share in the profits from this Alberta oil in the form of a “transmission royalty.” In electricity transmission, these are called “wheeling” fees or money paid to jurisdictions for the inconvenience, disruption and potential dangers inherent in running powers lines through their territory.

3. The First Nations’ situation is a mess in B.C., thanks to the provincial and federal governments. This won’t be sorted out for decades, so generous First Nations’ royalties, equivalent to similar settlements, should be placed in trust for eventual distribution to valid claimants. In addition, First Nations should have the right of first refusal on all jobs and supplier contracts involving these schemes.

4. The Canadian coast guard must supervise all foreign ships picking up or delivering oil in Canadian waters or ports and foreign ships must meet strict safety and integrity standards. The spectre of crews from developing nations in rusty vessels taking huge amounts of oil along British Columbia’s coast and channel is frightening and unacceptable. The costs of supervision and inspection must be paid for by the sellers/ buyers of the oil. This would consist of full-time inspectors to make sure everything, and everyone, is ship-shape. This is simply a prudent requirement that will, hopefully, insure that there will never be a Valdez event.

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