The Agency was responsible for the regulatory oversight of the construction of Phase I (the southern portion) of the AHGP (also known as the Prebuild) in 1981-82 for the initial purpose of transporting gas sourced from Western Canada to the United States (U.S.). These facilities, located in southern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, were expanded five times between 1985 and 1998 under the authority of the Act. The current flow capacity of the Prebuild is approximately 94.5 million cubic metres per day (3.3 billion cubic feet per day).
Phase II (the northern portion) of the AHGP would link the Prebuild with U.S. natural gas reserves at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. Economic conditions since 1982 have led to several delays in the completion of the AHGP and fluctuating activity levels for the Agency. Prior to commencing construction of this section of the pipeline, Foothills/TransCanada is required to obtain a comprehensive series of specific approvals from the Agency as set out under the Act. These approvals relate to socio-economic and environmental requirements, routing, technical and engineering design and other matters, such as the demonstration of project financing.
The Agency is also responsible for the administration of the Canada - Foothills easement agreement, which was entered into on November 24, 1983. Pursuant to the decision under the Act, a grant of easement was issued by Order in Council on November 28, 1983. The easement follows the Alaska Highway from the Yukon-Alaska border near Beaver Creek, Yukon, to the Yukon-British Columbia border near Watson Lake, Yukon. The easement agreement allows Foothills/TransCanada to conduct investigative work on easement lands; however, the company requires the approval of the minister responsible for the Agency before it can begin pipeline construction. Unless the term is once again amended, the agreement will expire on September 20, 2022. In addition to the easement, the Agency holds approximately 220 reserves of land along the pipeline route that could be used to support the construction and operation of the pipeline system.
To align with the reduction in the AHGP project activities for the foreseeable future, the Agency has scaled down its operations to a minimal level to fulfill Canada’s ongoing obligations as set out in the Act. During this time of reduced activities, the Agency will also respond to any incoming inquiries from other government agencies, Indigenous groups and the public. The future of the northern portion of the AHGP continues to rest with its proponents and the commercial marketplace.
In May 2012, Foothills/TransCanada notified the Agency that no regulatory filings were planned on the AHGP for now and of their intentions to maintain the AHGP project assets in Canada. Foothills/TransCanada informed the Agency in February 2013 that no further work is planned on the AHGP and that it will await further commercial interest before recommencing its efforts.
The challenge before the Agency is to preserve the progress and outcomes achieved in recent years to deliver an efficient and effective regulatory review framework of updated environmental, socio-economic and technical information which takes into account changes since the Act came into force and the pipeline was certificated in the late 1970s. Failure to be positioned for timely preparations, should the project be resumed, could jeopardize the Government of Canada’s performance of its responsibilities under the Act.
The Agency will continue to maintain a minimum level of resources to fulfil ongoing responsibilities until such time as Foothills/TransCanada resumes the project, or that Agency actions or federal decisions are needed.