Thinking About Utility Corridors

Blog, Energy, Les Routledge

If all goes according to plan, the pipeline to the west will not be required within 10 years.  Instead, the need to feed refineries in Texas will be satisfied by supply them with Canadian heavy oil, a feed stock that they can no longer access in sufficient quantity from Mexico and Venezuela.

It has been a good move by Canada to play the China card and they should continue to keep the pressure on. Someday, the two pipelines will be built, but it will come after the extortionists learn the lessons of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. In ten year from now once all the forests are dead between Jasper and Port Rupert, I wonder what all those people will do to make a living?  The environmental extortionists someday will be confronted with the realization that their version of sustainable development equals no development, no jobs and the social problems that come with creating a dependency society.

In the meantime, the China trade threat has been a great bargaining tool in the USA.

There are still many legal moves to play out on the western pipelines. I still hope that federal eminent domain comes into play so that no province (including Quebec) thinks they can strand assets of another province. The big game coming up is the Plan Nord in Quebec and if they will once again attempt to strand assets in Labrador from development opportunities there could be problems. Their proposed P3 with CN merits a lot of critical attention.  Class 1 railways are federal jurisdiction and the federal government must employ its regulatory muscle to ensure any new rail lines operate on an open access principle.

With the western pipeline issue, the fed’s are presented with a golden opportunity to craft a “utilities corridor” policy that focuses on the BC situation in particular but also creates a precedence so that PQ can not screw Labrador in the future. The federal government has the authority to create these utility corridors like they did for railways and the TransCanada pipeline route through Ontario. A bit of political and intestinal fortitude could create a fix that would last for 100 or more years.

There are times when the fed’s should delegate and there are times when the feds should act in the national interest. With respect to inter-provincial utility corridors, it is time for the feds to step in and declare that they are the boss!  Pull out that eminent domain card and wave it visibly.

That policy of federal leadership on corridors policy should include inter-provincial pipelines, highways, telecom lines, rail lines, power lines, airports & airline routes, and water pipelines. Eminent domain over those routes should be the primary instrument for dealing with local or regional land rights. The federal government will clear the corridor and commit to compensating affected landowners for their losses. There “duty to consult” should be contained within the federal government and should not apply at all to the private companies deploying infrastructure in those corridors.

Of course, environmental assessments and other regulatory procedures should continue. However, the difference would be the federal government takes is appropriate role of dealing with social impacts of development while the private sector is held accountable for dealing with environmental and economic impacts.