Enbridge, TransCanada on front lines of war between producers and anti-oil groups – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – May 10, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Imagine this corporate nightmare: activists dominating your annual shareholders’ meeting, sullying your brand over the Internet, discrediting you with politicians and agitating communities against you.

It used to be known as character assassination. Today it’s the environment in which Canada’s largest pipeline companies, TransCanada Corp. and Enbridge Inc., find themselves. They are on the front lines of the war between oil producers looking for new markets and opponents of oil extraction pushing to speed up the transition to renewable energy.

With pipeline rage that started with TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway projects spreading like wildfire to other proposals, the two companies are transforming the way they grow their business.

It involves a change in attitude, communicating with more people, paying more attention to what can go wrong, and facing higher costs amid more competition from rail companies that are expanding without restrictions.

“There is a new reality in terms of permitting and constructing pipelines that wasn’t there before,” said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, adding that the new model will be more time consuming, require more work, and in the end, cost more.

The change is palpable. Gone are the days when pipeline companies deliberately operated in the shadows, avoided public confrontation, and picked routes based on the shortest and cheapest way to destination, contributing to today’s problems. Today their leaders are humble, patient, responsive to society’s higher expectations and prepared to engage in debate.

“I appreciate it that we haven’t built that trust yet,” Enbridge CEO Al Monaco told an environmental activist during Wednesday’s annual meeting in Calgary, when he was reminded that First Nations’ opposition to Northern Gateway is so entrenched it will lead to lengthy legal action if the project goes ahead.

“My focus is to build that trust,” he said. “Our interest is on working cooperatively.”

TransCanada had a similar message at its annual meeting in Calgary two weeks ago: “We know that building trust is about open, honest and transparent communication,” Mr. Girling said, while slamming as “ridiculous nonsense” claims about XL’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

The new mantra has promoted an increase in staff specializing in communications, government relations, and community relations as the companies try to address concerns and adjust their projects before they galvanize opposition.

“We have done an extraordinary amount of work in excess of what is required by the regulator,” Mr. Monaco said about Enbridge’s proposal to reverse the flow of its Line 9 to bring oil sands bitumen to Eastern Canada.

For the rest of the article, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/05/09/transcanada-enbridge-front-lines-of-war/?__lsa=31f1-f1e6

 

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