New Brunswick's new premier said Monday he's looking to assure Alberta's oilpatch that even though the government has changed, its support for the Energy East pipeline has not.
Brian Gallant is visiting Calgary this week in his first official visit since being elected premier about a month ago.
The $12-billion Energy East project topped the agenda in Gallant's meeting with his Alberta counterpart, Jim Prentice on Monday. On Tuesday, he's to meet with top executives at TransCanada (TSX:TRP), the company planning to build the pipeline.
"The first priority when we came down here was to reaffirm our position. We can fully understand a few provinces away if there's a change in government, people will wonder what positions have stayed the same and if there have been some positions that have changed," said Gallant, whose Liberal government replaced that of Progressive Conservative David Alward.
"We continue to support the Energy East pipeline. We want to ensure that it happens. We want to do whatever we can as a province to make sure that it makes its way to New Brunswick and to Saint John."
Another goal of Gallant's visit is to drum up business for some companies in his province by finding ways to participate in the project. Representatives from 16 companies joined Gallant on his Alberta visit.
Alward and former Alberta premier Alison Redford made similar trips to one another's provinces in support of Energy East when they were in office.
At a news conference alongside Gallant, Prentice called Energy East an "extraordinary opportunity" for both provinces. He said Alberta's crude needs an outlet to global markets, whether that's through Energy East or other pipeline proposals to the West or U.S. Gulf Coasts. New Brunswick is home to the country's largest oil refinery and the site of a proposed export terminal.
"I very much admire and appreciate the premier's support for the Energy East project, which, of course, is something that's very critical to our province and the prosperity of our province," said Prentice.
Energy East would be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Canadian history, spanning six provinces and 4,600 kilometres if it goes through.
It would carry up to 1.1 million barrels of Alberta crude per day as far east as Irving Oil's massive refinery in Saint John. Much of that oil would be exported by tanker from planned terminals in Quebec and New Brunswick, enabling sales in markets such as Europe and India.
Energy East would ship oil through underused natural gas pipe that's already in the ground for about two thirds of the distance, with new pipe being built through Quebec and New Brunswick.
Some communities along the pipeline's route have expressed concern over how a spill could affect waterways and wildlife. Others have been more receptive, touting the economic benefits the project would bring.
The project has also encountered resistance from gas distributors in Central Canada, who worry their supplies of gas will be affected once the pipes are switched to carry oil.
Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. is expected to file its regulatory application to the National Energy Board any day now.