Energy advocate Richard Neufeld doubts Enbridge will build pipeline to coast – Company has left ‘sour taste in most people’s mouths,’ senator says

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun October 9, 2012

One of Canada’s most outspoken champions of the oil and gas industry has doubts whether Enbridge will ever build a pipeline to the B.C. coast – even if the $6-billion project gets federal approval.

Former B.C. energy minister Richard Neufeld, now a Conservative senator, said he strongly supports the construction of pipelines to the B.C. coast so Canada can ship Alberta’s diluted bitumen crude to booming Asian markets.

But he said Enbridge has so badly mismanaged the $6-billion project that he questions whether the Calgary company has the public credibility to proceed with the megaproject even if the National Energy Board approves the application next year.

“I don’t know whether Enbridge has actually screwed up bad enough that even if it was OK’d, whether let’s say the NEB says, ‘Hey, this plan looks good, we can go ahead,’ that Enbridge would be able to actually build that pipeline,” he told The Vancouver Sun.

“I just think Enbridge has left such a sour taste in most peoples’ mouths.”

Neufeld also said he supports B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s demand to get a bigger share of cash for B.C. from the project before approving it.

He supports Premier Alison Redford’s position that B.C. has no right to claim a share of Alberta’s royalties, but said Victoria should have no trouble using its taxing authority to raise money from the project.

He questioned, however, Clark’s apparent hard line against the Alberta government and the oilpatch, in particular her veiled threat in Calgary last week to withhold electric power needed to operate the pipeline and Kitimat terminal in B.C.

“Those kind of things shouldn’t be said. You just don’t do that,” he said, adding that former premier Gordon Campbell spent years trying to build a close relationship between Alberta and B.C.

“This is kind of tearing it apart and I don’t think it’s good … I don’t know the reasoning behind that but if I’d been there (in the B.C. cabinet) it’s something I would have talked against.”

An Enbridge spokesman rejected Neufeld’s assertion that the company failed to adequately consult British Columbians and especially First Nations.

“Our work on Northern Gateway has included the most extensive consultation process ever undertaken for a Canadian pipeline project: over 2,500 meetings, 123 open houses, 150 presentations, and 64 workshops,” Todd Nogier said in an email interview.

“That far exceeds anything required by the regulator.”

Neufeld, 67, was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s energy minister from 2001 until shortly after his appointment to the Senate in December 2008.

He has long called for a robust Canadian energy industry and for years promoted oil and gas exploration off the B.C. coast – an option Neufeld acknowledges isn’t viable due to political opposition combined with vast shale gas reserves that are now being exploited in B.C.

And he’ll go to the barricades to defend the Alberta and federal government position that the oilsands industry needs access to B.C.’s ports to diversify its markets away from the U.S., which is growing increasingly self-sufficient in oil and gas.

But Neufeld said Enbridge didn’t adequately recognize that B.C. is far different from Alberta when it began consultations on its proposed 1,177-kilometre twin pipelines from the Edmonton area to Kitimat.

He said the company, which on its website under “Benefits for British Columbians” promises 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs, isn’t being straight with the public.

“I’ve had briefings (with Enbridge), they talk about all the jobs and the economic activity in B.C. And I said, ‘Look, I’ve been in the oilpatch and the world long enough to know that that pipeline will be built in a hurry, and that means people come from all over the place. Don’t tell me all of those jobs will involves British Columbians. It just won’t happen.

“So let’s be honest with those numbers. Let’s tell the people what is truthful.”

He also said the company didn’t do enough to win support from British Columbians in remote regions along the route, and especially First Nations.

Enbridge’s Nogier said the company has already proven it is listening to British Columbians, and said the commitment of up to $500 million in new safety measures should be viewed more positively.

“We felt we already had an industry-leading project in terms of safety and these enhancements were intended to make the project even safer,” he wrote.

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Original source article: Energy advocate Richard Neufeld doubts Enbridge will build pipeline to coast