Huge black eye for Kenney as Teck cites lack of climate policy for killing Frontier oil sands mine

When will the Premier admit his mistake and restore robust climate and energy policies to Alberta? How many more oil and gas mega-projects have to flee the province citing poor climate policy before he gets the message?

Jason Kenney’s political world unravelled a little Sunday night. Teck Resources withdrew its Teck Frontier application, citing inadequate government climate policy, which is now required by investors. Translation: no one was willing to finance the project after the UCP gutted the Notley NDP government’s climate programs.

Don Lindsay, CEO, Teck Resources.

In its letter to Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson from CEO Don Lindsay, the Vancouver-based mining giant explained the reasoning behind its decision in no uncertain terms:

“…global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products. This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project.”

Teck levelled another veiled criticism at Kenney when it noted that it is a strong proponent of carbon pricing. Kenney and the UCP ran against the province-wide carbon tax during the April election campaign, killing it shortly after taking office. Alberta has also joined a lawsuit with several other provinces challenged the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax backstop, which took effect in the province on January 1.

“At Teck, we believe deeply in the need to address climate change and believe that Canada has an important role to play globally as a responsible supplier of natural resources. We support strong actions to enable the transition to a low carbon future. We are also strong supporters of Canada’s action on carbon pricing and other climate policies such as legislated caps for oil sands emissions.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

Kenney also ran against the Notley government’s 100 megatonne per year oil sands emissions cap, though he has moderated his position under pressure from the Trudeau government.

A blustering Alberta premier issued a lengthy statement Sunday evening blaming the federal government for Teck’s decision.

Weeks of federal indecision on the regulatory approval process and inaction in the face of illegal blockades have created more uncertainty for investors looking at Canada. Teck’s predicament shows that even when a company spends more than $1 billion over a decade to satisfy every regulatory requirement, a regulatory process that values politics over evidence and the erosion of the rule of law will be fatal to investor confidence.

He went to argue that Albert had done its part, “but the federal government’s inability to convey a clear or unified position let us, and Teck, down.”

Lindsay’s own words contradict the Premier.

But if Albertans want to know when the fatal blow to Frontier was administered, they should read Blackrock CEO Larry Fink’s mid-January letter to CEOs and investors about climate change and investment decisions. Blackrock is the world’s biggest asset manager, with almost $7 trillion under management, and sets the bar for the industry.

“Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects,” Fink wrote.

“Investors are increasingly reckoning with these questions and recognizing that climate risk is investment risk. Indeed, climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock…These questions are driving a profound reassessment of risk and asset values. And because capital markets pull future risk forward, we will see changes in capital allocation more quickly than we see changes to the climate itself. In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.” [bold emphasis in the original]

Oil sands projects are 30 to 50-year investments. It would be a safe bet that Teck faced greater reluctance from investors to support the $20 billion Frontier project after Blackrock’s letter, which received extensive media coverage around the world.

If Albertans think the Teck decision is a tragedy, they haven’t seen anything yet. In December, the Alberta Securities Commission released a report that detailed a capital crisis in the junior oil and gas sector. Small producers cannot attract equity investment and banks won’t touch them, economist Richard Masson explained last week to Energi Media.

Imagine the chilly reception Alberta oil and gas companies will receive this week after Teck’s decision?

Premier’s Kenney’s reckless words and even more reckless policies are now having real-world consequences for the Alberta economy. Yet he continues to double down on bad policy by blaming everyone but himself.

When will the Premier admit his mistake and restore robust climate and energy policies to Alberta? How many more oil and gas mega-projects have to flee the province citing poor climate policy before he gets the message?

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