November 5, 2010 / 7:02 PM / in 7 years

Baird gets Canada Arctic gas responsibility: report

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Interim Canadian Environment Minister John Baird will assume responsibility for the stalled C$16.2 billion ($16.2 billion) Mackenzie Arctic gas pipeline following the resignation of predecessor Jim Prentice, CBC News reported on Friday.

<p>Government House Leader John Baird speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>

Prentice, who announced on Thursday he was leaving the government, had been Ottawa’s man on the project since 2006, carrying the file through stints as minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Industry as well as Environment.

Baird will take over responsibility for the project temporarily, CBC said.

Mackenzie, led by Imperial Oil Ltd, is awaiting a final ruling from the National Energy Board in the latest in a long string of regulatory delays since 2004.

In early 2009, Prentice offered Imperial and its partners a package of financial support measures aimed at helping to make the 1,220 km (760 mile) pipeline through the Northwest Territories viable.

The package included an offer to provide infrastructure such as roads and airstrips as well as financial risk-sharing.

However, the two sides could not agree on the package after months of talks, and earlier this year put discussions on hold until after the NEB makes its decision.

Imperial has said it likely will not make a decision to go ahead with the project until 2013.

The line would move 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas a day along the Mackenzie River Valley to Alberta from the Beaufort Sea Coast in Canada’s Arctic.

Besides regulatory delays, the proposal has been hampered by rising costs, falling natural gas prices and the prospect of competition from a much larger Alaska gas pipeline.

Imperial’s partners in the proposal are Royal Dutch Shell Plc, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

($1=$1.00 Canadian)

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Peter Galloway

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