CALGARY - Starting today and continuing tomorrow, lawyers representing the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) will grill executives from Enbridge Pipelines on their plans to build yet another massive "bitumen highway" to refineries and upgraders in the United States.
The cross-examination will take place at the offices of National Energy Board in Calgary as the Board considers Enbridge's application to build a new pipeline, dubbed the Alberta Clipper. If approved, the Clipper will have the capacity to transport more than 600,000 barrels of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to buyers south of the border each day.
"We're not opposed to new pipelines," says AFL president Gil McGowan. "But the big question is: what are these pipelines going to be used to transport? We should be shipping value-added products, not diluted bitumen. If these pipelines end up being nothing more than bitumen highways, then we'll be exporting literally thousands of high-paying, family-sustaining jobs along with our oil. That's simply not in the best interests of Albertans."
McGowan says the Stelmach government's recently announced plan to take an undetermined amount of bitumen in lieu of royalties and make it available for domestic upgrading is an "interesting idea" - but he says it doesn't come close to being the kind of comprehensive "Alberta first" upgrading strategy that the province needs.
"We'll be asking the Board to reject Enbridge's development application or at least delay making a final ruling until the Alberta government has put a comprehensive policy in place," says McGowan.
"If this project is approved - on top of TransCanada Pipelines' Keystone project that was approved in September - then it will be game over. Big energy companies will start investing in U.S. upgrading capacity and Alberta will have missed its opportunity. We simply can't afford to let these pipelines proceed until Alberta has put a value-added policy framework in place. If the pipelines come first, developing a policy will be like closing the barn door after the horse has already gotten out."
In addition to challenging the Alberta Clipper, the AFL is supporting the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada in its efforts to lobby the Federal cabinet to stop the Keystone pipeline from winning final approval. The cabinet has to give final approval to all recommendations from the NEB - something it hasn't yet done with the Keystone project.
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For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ 780.218-9888 (cell)