Originally published by Robert Tuttle for Bloomberg on June 9, 2021
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The battle for a controversial Canadian oil pipeline is heating up, with Pembina Pipeline Corp. forming a partnership with an Indigenous group to buy the key Trans Mountain pipeline in a challenge to another native group seeking full ownership.

Canada’s third-largest pipeline company said in an emailed statement it has formed Chinook Pathways, an “equal” partnership with Western Indigenous Pipeline Group to pursue ownership of the government-owned Trans Mountain once an expansion of the system is completed.

The announcement came after another indigenous group called Project Reconciliation announced it would seek to fully own the pipeline.

Indigenous Group Seeks Full Ownership of Trans Mountain Pipeline

The pipeline, Canada’s only oil pipeline system that delivers crude oil from Alberta to the Pacific Coast, has been the focus of fierce environmental opposition. While some indigenous groups seek to own Trans Mountain, others in British Columbia see it as a threat to the environment and are fighting to stop the expansion project, which is scheduled for completion late next year.

Western Indigenous represents the most affected communities along the pipeline’s right of way.

“Chinook Pathways is an Indigenous-led partnership with a vision to convene a significant number of communities to pursue ownership of the Trans Mountain,” the company said in an email. A call to the head of Western Indigenous, Chief Mike LeBourdais, wasn’t returned.

Canada’s federal government bought Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan Inc. for C$4.5 billion ($3.7 billion) in 2018 after the company threatened to scrap the line’s expansion amid the environmental opposition. Alberta’s oil sands industry badly needs more conduits to export its crude, and many hope that indigenous participation will help quell objections to the project.

Cost of Trudeau’s Pipeline Wager Soars 70% to $9.5 Billion

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has said it will sell its ownership once the expansion is completed and de-risked, and is open to indigenous participation. The government is currently engaged in consultations with First Nation communities.

Pembina announced its interest in Trans Mountain even as it’s engaged in another takeover battle. It is competing with Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP to acquire Inter Pipeline Ltd., a rival Canadian midstream company.