Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is seen underway in Kamloops, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. A new report from the parliamentary budget officer says the federal government could end up losing money on the Trans Mountain pipeline if it further tightens its climate policy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is seen underway in Kamloops, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. A new report from the parliamentary budget officer says the federal government could end up losing money on the Trans Mountain pipeline if it further tightens its climate policy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Future value of Trans Mountain pipeline rests on Liberals’ climate plans, PBO says

The increased capacity wouldn’t come on line until the end of 2022

The federal government could end up losing money on the Trans Mountain pipeline if it further tightens its climate policy and decreasing demand for Canadian oil, the parliamentary budget officer says.

The federal government bought the pipeline, and the unfinished work to increase its capacity by twinning it, in August 2018 for $4.4 billion.

The Liberals haven’t been able to find a buyer for the pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast. They are instead paying for its expansion, which the most recent estimate says will cost $12.6 billion.

The increased capacity wouldn’t come on line until the end of 2022.

The budget officer said the pipeline remains profitable based on expected cash flows, estimating the government could make $600 million above its purchase price.

But Yves Giroux warned in his report Tuesday that everything could change based on circumstances both beyond and within the government’s control, including changes to climate policy that would reduce demand for the petroleum products the pipeline moves.

Giroux also provided a scenario for the Liberals’ promise to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, estimating that doing so could lead to a $1.5-billion loss on Trans Mountain.

And that estimate led environmental groups to argue the government should spend less on the pipeline and more on tackling climate change.

“This pipeline is only profitable in a worst-case climate scenario, where the world takes no new action on climate change,” said Keith Stewart with Greenpeace Canada. “That is not a future that we should be betting over $12 billion of public money on.”

The report Tuesday was an update on the PBO’s report from early 2019 that pegged the cost of the pipeline and planned expansion project at between $3.6 billion and $4.6 billion, meaning the government might have overpaid for the project two years ago.

READ MORE: Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

The Liberals have argued the costs were worth it to save a project that looked doomed when Kinder Morgan and its investors got cold feet in the face of legal opposition and political uncertainty.

Despite a series of legal wins to the pipeline’s construction, and government money going into it, a sale hasn’t happened.

It’s unlikely the Liberals will ever find a buyer because the PBO report adds to arguments that Trans Mountain isn’t economically viable, said NDP finance critic Peter Julian.

He called on the Liberals to shift spending from the pipeline to climate change projects like green energy infrastructure.

“It was a mistake for Mr. Trudeau in 24 hours to come up with ($4.4 billion) and throw that at the company,” he said during a virtual press conference.

“It would be a bigger mistake to … keep pouring money — taxpayers’ money — into this project, even though it is almost in all the scenarios that are realistic, it is going to be a money-loser.”

Giroux’s report last year estimated the government would lose upwards of $2.5 billion if the expansion didn’t go ahead.

In his report Tuesday, Giroux estimated that a one-year delay in getting the expansion online would translate into a $400 million loss. A 10 per cent drop in construction costs would put the profit margin at $1 billion, or $200 million if costs rise.

In a statement, Giroux said the precarity of the outlook lay with federal policy.

“The profitability of the assets is highly contingent on the climate policy stance of the federal government and on the future utilization rate of the pipeline,” he said.

Amara Possian, Canada campaign director for 350.org (named for a “safe” level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) said the PBO report makes clear the government now faces a clear choice.

“Acting on climate change and Trans Mountain don’t mix and we all need to be asking the prime minister what’s more important: saving this pipeline or tackling the climate crisis?”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Climate changeLiberalsTrans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth sustains minor injuries in stabbing at Saanich Plaza

Suspect under age of 16 taken into custody, no risk to the public, police say

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Sue Hodgson returns as publisher of the Peninsula News Review starting June 1. (Courtesy Sue Hodgson)
Peninsula News Review welcomes back Sue Hodgson as publisher

Dale Naftel takes helm of Oak Bay News as publisher

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports 1st vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Most Read