Alberta gas minister calls for streamlined federal approvals [UPDATE]
Alberta’s associate minister of natural gas and electricity called on the Canadian government September 20 to streamline regulatory approvals that would help Canadian natural gas reach export markets quicker.
Dale Nally pointed out that the world is facing a long-term energy crisis and Alberta has the natural gas resources to help ease that crisis and reduce global emissions. But prime minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government is preventing that by unnecessarily delaying natural gas export projects.
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“With massive gas reserves, technological prowess and high ESG standards, Canada has an opportunity to help lead the way,” Nally said, adding he has sent a letter to federal energy minister Jonathan Wilkinson highlighting the problems with the current regulatory system and asking for a streamlined approach.
The letter – also signed by Alberta energy minister Sonya Savage – points to the impact constraints and delays in the federal regulatory process are having on critical infrastructure projects, most notably TC Energy’s latest expansion of its Nova Gas Transmission Limited (NGTL) system, which moves most of the gas produced in western Canada.
The NGTL West Path Delivery 2023 project would supply growing demand in Alberta and BC and export markets in the US, principally in California and the Pacific Northwest.
In May this year, the commission of the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) issued its report on the expansion proposal and recommended the federal cabinet approve the project, triggering a requirement that the cabinet either accept or reject the CER’s recommendations within 90 days. Without explanation, Nally says in his letter, that deadline has been extended, with no indication when a decision on West Path might be forthcoming.
TC Energy CEO Francois Poirier, in a statement published to the company's website later on September 20, said C$10bn was invested in system expansions in Western Canada between 2017 and 2021 in an effort to improve market access for Canadian gas producers.
“However, we have and continue to face growing external challenges to complete our expansions on time, including additional regulatory requirements and regulatory and government delays in approvals,” he said in the statement. “Delays and process uncertainty impact our customers’ ability to move gas to critical markets, affecting Canada’s overall ability to remain competitive. More importantly, delays and process uncertainty hinder confidence in the advancement of natural gas projects that facilitate coal-to-gas conversion, global energy security and Canada’s path toward emissions reduction.”
TC Energy’s NGTL 2021 expansion work was also hit by regulatory delays, resulting in the loss of one complete construction season and contributing to the effective disconnect of the western Canadian gas market from the rest of North America.
In his letter, Nally traces the regulatory problems back to a federal decision to replace the National Energy Board with the CER – a “needless overhaul” of a regulatory system that was already considered one of the best in the world.
“The NGTL 2023 expansion is but the most recent example of the federal government’s inaction, creating bewildering delays without adequate explanations and causing significant harm to Canada’s clean-energy potential,” Nally said. “I am calling on Ottawa to do for Alberta’s energy sector what it promised to do for European nations last month – streamline regulatory processes and complete final assessment of the Nova 2023 expansion as soon as possible.”