Pipelines, Albertan tar and NAFTA

Premiere Rachel Notley of Alberta.

13th January 2018

 I was cruising CPAC the other day and I came across your address to the Economic Club of Canada from 21 November 2017 concerning amongst other things the need for pipelines from the Alberta tar sands to tidewater.

 You said and I quote:

 “…..we need to be able to sell that energy from that energy industry to more than just one client.

Right now, all our energy infrastructure is built for export to the United States.  They are a monopoly buyer.”

 I will not argue with that at all, but there is a catch to what you are saying.

 I am referring to NAFTA, and in particular Article 605 which I quote below:



Article 605: Other Export Measures

Subject to Annex 605, a Party may adopt or maintain a restriction otherwise justified under Articles XI:2(a) or XX(g), (i) or (j) of the GATT with respect to the export of an energy or basic petrochemical good to the territory of another Party, only if:

  1. a)the restriction does not reduce the proportion of the total export shipments of the specific energy or basic petrochemical good made available to that other Party relative to the total supply of that good of the Party maintaining the restriction as compared to the proportion prevailing in the most recent 36month period for which data are available prior to the imposition of the measure, or in such other representative period on which the Parties may agree;


From this, it is clear from what you are saying that we are exporting 100% of the bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the US and we cannot reduce that percentage without the approval of the US.  As long as that Article of NAFTA, or indeed NAFTA itself, remain in effect there is no way that even a “barrel” of tar can be shipped anywhere except to the United States, which in essence owns 100% of your tar.

It is also clear that you are suggesting that the disputed Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby is to transport that diluted tar intended for export by super oil tankers to, amongst others, China.

Clearly, Minister Freeland, to whom I have written numerous times on this very Article 605 with absolutely no response, chooses to ignore this important NAFTA  article even if it must be clear to her that we have a serious problem.

What both of you are suggesting is that a claim in front of a quasi-legal trade tribunal is of no importance to you as the people of Canada will be happy to pay the millions in lost profit which the US importers of this Canadian tar will claim against us as soon as you ship so much as one kilogram of tar somewhere else.

Perhaps you have a way around this?

If so I would be very pleased to hear it.

What I personally hope is that President Trump does actually go ahead and cancel NAFTA and you can then at least contemplate exporting your tar elsewhere in the world and, I would suggest, through a port in Alaska.

Incidentally the concept that supertankers do not get into trouble, never accepted by the coastal people here in BC, is under a black cloud of smoke right now as there is one on fire in the China Seas after a collision, and there is no way that any spill of diluted bitumen in either the Vancouver Harbour, Georgia Strait or the Strait of Juna Fuca can be cleaned up any more than was that mess in Michigan. 

It is unfortunate that in your desire to make things better again for Alberta, you should choose to trample over British Columbians in the same way our original settlers did to the then long-time inhabitants of what we now call Canada. 

Strange how history repeats itself isn’t it Ms Notley?

Jeremy Arney



We are a long way from this and getting further away each day


When the Landscape is Quiet Again.

Governor Arthur A. Link, October 11th, 1973.

We do not want to halt progress; we do not plan to be selfish and say North Dakota will not share its energy resources. We simply want to ensure the most efficient and environmentally sound method of utilizing our precious coal and water resources for the benefit of the broadest number of people possible.

And when we are through with that and the landscape is quiet again, when the draglines, the blasting rigs, the power shovels and the huge gondolas cease to rip and roar and when the last bulldozer has pushed the spoil pile into place and the last patch of barren earth has been seeded to grass or grain, let those who follow and repopulate the land be able to say, our grandparents did their job well. The land is as good and in some cases, better than before.

Only if they can say this, will we be worthy of the rich heritage of our land and its resources.”

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