May 16, 2019 / 9:33 PM / 4 months ago

Canadian Senate committee recommends govt scrap oil tanker ban bill

CALGARY, Alberta, May 16 (Reuters) - The premier of Canada’s main crude-producing province Alberta on Thursday welcomed a Senate committee vote recommending the federal government does not proceed with a bill enacting an oil tanker moratorium along British Columbia’s northern coast.

The committee voted on Wednesday night against Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers from docking on that stretch of coast. Six senators were in favour of the legislation and six against, and under Senate committee rules a tied vote counts as a rejection.

Bill C-48 will now return to the Senate chamber where legislators will vote on whether to accept or reject the committee’s recommendation. It could still be passed into law.

Alberta’s government opposes C-48 because it shuts down the possibility of shipping crude by pipeline from Alberta to a northern British Columbia port for export to overseas markets. Premier Jason Kenney urged the Senate to vote against the bill.

“All we want ... is the right to be able sell our resources at a fair price. That means coastal pipelines and that means Bill C-48 must die in the Senate,” he told reporters.

Alberta is home to Canada’s vast oil sands but its heavy crude trades at a discount to U.S. oil because of congestion on export pipelines. New pipeline project have been delayed for years by regulatory hold-ups and environmental opposition.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised an oil tanker moratorium to protect the delicate coastal ecosystem as part of his election campaign in 2015 and Bill C-48 has already passed the House of Commons.

There are currently no oil export ports on British Columbia’s northern coast but such infrastructure was a major part of Enbridge Inc’s proposed Northern Gateway project, which was rejected by the Liberal government in 2016.

Oil tankers still transport crude south from Alaska along that coastline.

Critics of Bill C-48 say it would cement some of the difficulties landlocked Alberta faces in getting its crude to international markets.

“I agree that the sensitive coastal areas of northern B.C. deserve and demand environmental protection. I didn’t think C-48 did the job,” said independent Senator Paula Simons from Alberta, who voted against the bill.

The vote was slammed by supporters of the tanker moratorium, including Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada. “Unelected senators are now seeking the defeat of a bill supported by elected Members of the House,” she said. (Reporting by Nia Williams Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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