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Proposed pipelines all risk, little reward for B.C.: report

Pipeline construction in British Columbia.

Gary Campbell/The Globe and Mail

Alberta stands to rake in more than half a trillion dollars in taxes over 25 years should three major pipeline projects – all facing stiff opposition – proceed, a new report says.

British Columbia will receive just a trickle in comparison, even though the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Trans Mountain network will snake through the province and oil tankers will ship out of its ports.

Alberta will receive roughly $551.6-billion in taxes between 2011 and 2035 from three projects – Gateway, Trans Mountain, and Keystone XL, which is slated to reach the Gulf Coast near Texas, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

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CERI, which released its report Tuesday, is funded by the federal Department of Natural Resources, the Alberta Department of Energy, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an industry lobby group.

Alberta and the federal government are fierce supporters of the projects, although they face stiff opposition from environmentalists, first nations, and lawmakers on both sides of the border.

In B.C., Premier Christy Clark has complained that her province is carrying the majority of the risk in Enbridge Inc.'s proposed Gateway pipeline, while receiving little economic benefit compared to neighbouring Alberta.

Tuesday's report comes as B.C. demands a greater slice of the economic benefits expected to flow from Gateway and Trans Mountain. Ms. Clark is refusing to support Alberta's proposed national energy strategy until a compromise is reached, and the CERI report underscores her argument that B.C. gains little compared to oil-rich Alberta.

TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL, the largest of the three lines, will bring the most benefit to Alberta thanks to oil-sands development, CERI said. It will add $121-billion in incremental tax revenue over 25 years, while Ontario will receive $6-billion, and $2-billion will end up in B.C.

Gateway, on the other hand, will add $73-billion to Alberta's coffers, $4-billion in Ontario, and $1-billion in B.C.

Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain expansion effort would translate into $60-billion in incremental tax revenue for Alberta, with Ontario and B.C. again left with scraps. Meanwhile, existing pipelines are expected to add $298-billion to Alberta's pockets, with $15-billion to Ontario and $5-billion to B.C.

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The report does not consider the benefits tied to constructing and operating the three pipelines. CERI will release those details in a report in early August.

The B.C. government generated its own analysis to back up its bid for an enhanced share of benefits from the pipeline project.

"The incremental revenues that accrue to British Columbia are a fraction of those accruing to Canada or Alberta," said the B.C. government's report last week.

That report, citing an analysis by the Calgary-based Wright Mansell Research Ltd., said the project would generate $81-billion in incremental government revenues over 30 years.

"British Columbia is projected to receive only $6.7-billion or approximately eight per cent while assuming much of the risk to our land and rivers, and all of the risk to our coastline.

"Our government does not agree that we should bear the majority of risk with the minority share of benefits being returned to our citizens."

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While CERI has yet to release the second half of its study, researcher Dinara Millington said it is "unlikely" her math will predict a revenue number for B.C. that is as healthy what the Wright Mansell report forecasts.

She noted, however, the competing study looked at an extra decade and the researchers used different assumptions, such as the price of oil and cost of the project, to crunch those numbers.

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About the Authors

Carrie Tait joined the Globe in January, 2011, mainly reporting on energy from the Calgary bureau. Previously, she spent six years working for the National Post in both Calgary and Toronto. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan. More

B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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