Trans Mountain Pipeline May Be Casualty of Trump Trade War
Dogged by years of protests at home, but buoyed by the Trudeau government’s promise to buy the project, the Trans Mountain pipeline may finally bite the dust in Donald Trump’s Washington, a casualty of U.S.-Canada trade tensions, writes the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
Ottawa had hoped for a swift purchase followed by a rapid resale of the pipeline to a third party, thus “avoiding scrutiny around public takeover of a controversial project mid-build—when financial, political, and regulatory risk is highest,” IEEFA notes. But that outcome depended, among other factors, on Washington rubber-stamping Canada’s acquisition of an American pipeliner’s assets.
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And “while Congress and the executive branch have been working for years to make such approval processes more business- and ally-friendly, current tensions between the two countries are creating uncertainty around what once might have been routine approvals.”
In addition to “review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency, cabinet-level panel charged with addressing any national security concerns around such deals,” the Trans Mountain deal also needs to secure State Department certification, “through a ‘presidential permit’ review meant to protect the national interest.”
With Trump effectively having the last word in both cases, writes IEEFA, “skittishness over the deal is already apparent.”
Critically, “Kinder Morgan’s latest earnings release suggests that the date for the closing—which the Canadian government said originally would be [July] — has since been pushed back until late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter of this year.”
And so far, observes IEEFA, there has been no sign of Ottawa’s long-promised “independent diligence review” of the deal. That Kinder Morgan itself failed to secure a private sector buyer “highlights the need for enhanced diligence to ensure that the Canadian public is getting fair value for its considerable investment,” add IEEFA Finance Director Tom Sanzillo and Financial Analyst Kathy Hipple.
“Silence from Ottawa and a unilateral closing-delay announcement from the company are signs that the deal is not on track,” they write. And given the unpredictability of trade wars, “it may go off the rails all together.”
Meanwhile, in a B.C. courtroom, 70-year-old Kinder Morgan pipeline protester Laurie Embree offered an eloquent defence of ongoing efforts to derail the project on its home turf in Burnaby. Addressing the court, she compared the laws that currently protect the pipeliners’ property and fossil companies’ activities to those that once protected industrialists who made their money off the labour of children, and plantation owners who enriched themselves through enslaving black people.
“I truly believe,” she said, “that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws.”
Embree, the first protester to risk jail time in the anti-pipeline fight, was originally sentenced to seven days in jail for her part in the Trans Mountain blockade, but Coast Protectors reported over the weekend that she’d been released early for good behaviour. “After speaking to media Saturday morning,” the organization said, Embree “had only one request—go somewhere to pick blueberries.”