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An anti-pipeline protest in Calgary involving a couple of dozen people quickly turned into a pro-pipeline rally yesterday when a much bigger group of Trans Mountain supporters took over the event and made it their own, the Calgary Herald reports.
The initial group of protesters demonstrated outside the office of federal Alberta MP Kent Hehr with calls to “stop the Kinder Morgan buyout”. Ottawa last month announced it would buy the Trans Mountain expansion project from Kinder Morgan and look for new investors to take up the project and make it happen. The protesters delivered a petition signed by 37,000 people to the MP’s office.
Later, however, the daily reports, a group three times as big as the protesters’ turned up bearing signs saying “Just Build It.” One member of the second group told the Calgary Herald pipeline supporters were “on the side of reality, of truth and common sense,” voicing concern, however, that now that the federal government has bought the project it might decide to simply let it “sit on the shelf”.
The federal buyout of the Trans Mountain expansion followed a deadline set by Kinder Morgan for Ottawa to provide it with guarantees that the project would move ahead despite strong opposition from the province of British Columbia.
This opposition sparked a trade war of sorts between B.C. and Alberta, featuring B.C. wine import bans, threats to turn the oil taps off completely, and responding threats by B.C. to take its neighbor to court over the whole Trans Mountain affair.
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The B.C. government’s position on the pipeline expansion project focuses on the risks of a spill or a leak. Alberta, for its part, has countered with the fact that a pipeline is a much safer way of transporting diluted bitumen than railway, which producers now have to use to move their oil.
For Alberta, the expansion is urgently needed as oil sands operators ramp up production and need new markets for it. The combination of pipeline capacity shortage and higher production has pressured Canadian benchmark crude to historic discounts to WTI.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.