Today Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, co-signed by several U.S. governors, calling for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The move was noted for two omissions: the absence of signatures of Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, or Alberta Premier Alison Redford.
I asked Wall whether Heineman declined to sign the letter, or whether he was not approached because he is midway through a review process of a proposed alternative route through his state. Wall said Heineman was not approached:
“We knew he was in the middle of that [review].”
Wall said he is “pretty optimistic” that Nebraska will approve the alternative route.
Likewise, Alberta Premier Alison Redford was not invited to sign on:
“I don’t believe there was a specific request [to Redford],” said Wall. “This was our idea and we started phoning governors.”
The omission of Alberta was strategic, he suggested:
“I think it’s helpful sometimes if it’s not Alberta leading this,” said Wall, who noted that Alberta had long been “on top” of pipeline lobbying in Washington. “We [Saskatchewan] can be an honest broker because we don’t have commercial oil sands in our province.”
However, he said Alberta is “supportive of this initiative.”
So what is Saskatchewan’s interest in the pipeline? Wall said the province produces conventional crude oil for export to the U.S. and is concerned about pipeline capacity , especially as oil production ramps up in the Bakken formation that straddles parts of North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan:
“We won’t necessarily have oil in this pipeline, but any relief of the capacity issue is important to us.”
Wall also noted that Saskatchewan sells its oil at a discount of about $15 to $18 per barrel because it cannot reach refiners on the Gulf Coast of Texas:
“This costs our treasury $300-million a year that we could use to pay off debt or invest in infrastructure.”
I asked Wall whether he had any experience in dealing with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, President Obama’s nominee to replace Secretary of State Clinton. Kerry has a long-standing concern about climate change and environmentalists consider him to be more amenable to hearing their concerns about the pipeline. Wall said he’d met the senator, and would continue to make the case:
“There has been a lot of work around increasing the sustainability of oil sands development. Canada has invested a lot. We need to do more, we are doing more. This is a chance to get that message out.”
“There is still going to be a need for imports. And when we talk about energy security, I’ve heard both parties in the last election talk about it in the North American context. If we’re serious about independence, we need to move energy across the continent.”