Hot Topic: A pipeline project used to be about as controversial as a zoning application. What happened?
ON THE HOT SEAT: Gavin Fitch, a regulatory lawyer with McLennan Ross, Lorne Carson, a project finance lawyer with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Patrick Duffy, an energy litigator with Stikeman Elliott, Lawrence Smith, a regulatory partner with Bennett Jones, Alan Ross, a regulatory partner with Borden Ladner Gervais and Josh Patterson, counsel with West Coast Environmental Law, the oldest environmental law organization in B.C.
Once Canadian crude gets to a port, it can get to the world. Asia today. South America tomorrow. Wherever.
“Pipeline applications used to be so routine,” says Gavin Fitch, a regulatory lawyer with Alberta regional law firm McLennan Ross. “Yes, there certainly are issues from time to time, but the overall environmental impact of pipelines was for the most part well understood.” And getting those babies approved was, as he says, “routine.”
But there’s nothing routine about Keystone XL’s misadventures in the U.S., nor the furor surrounding Northern Gateway. And the discussion around these projects has been hysterical rather than rational. Listen to either side and you might get the impression that what’s at stake isn’t actually Gateway or Keystone, but life as we know it.
If approved and built, these pipelines will change everything. Gateway would bring oil sands crude to the West Coast. Keystone, nominally about getting crude south to the U.S. market, is ultimately about getting it out to the rest of the world. You’ve seen the headlines about the price discounts for Canadian crude (CIBC World Markets’ analyst Andrew Potter pegs the resulting financial loss to Albertan producers at a whopping $18 billion a year). Getting the crude to ports would change that – almost overnight.