Alta. axes support for $7B First Nations oil refinery

Alberta Energy Minister Ted Morton takes part in a press conference at the Alberta Legislature in...

Alberta Energy Minister Ted Morton takes part in a press conference at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Feb. 13, 2012. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI AGENCY)

Jackie L. Larson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:06 PM ET

EDMONTON - A decision to drop provincial support for the proposed $7 billion Alberta First Nations Energy Centre had taxpayer interests in mind, a spokesman for Alberta Energy said Friday.

"There was just too high a degree of uncertainty around it. It was too great a risk for government to take on behalf of taxpayers," said Bart Johnson.

In a meeting Feb. 8 with the Grand Treaty Chiefs, Alberta Energy Minister Ted Morton said the province couldn't commit to the Teedrum Inc., project not knowing what the ultimate costs and benefits would be, nor if the project was viable.

"It's a huge investment, and if government is going to get involved, then we need the assurance that it's viable," Johnson said.

He compared it to another project that was approved by the government, the Northwest Upgrader, in northern Alberta, that had $300 million of advanced engineering and the land already purchased, as well as regulatory approvals and a major partner in place.

In the year prior to the meeting, Teedrum hadn't delivered, Johnson said.

Teedrum president Ken Horn said the group had their ducks in a row -- a former Syncrude exec to head it up, options on sites, foreign investors from China, preliminary environmental and geotechnical studies.

"We just had a formality to go through for approval -- then Energy Minister Ted Morton delivered the blow," Horn said.

"Ultimately, we'd like to get back to the table for further discussions to give this a fair, honest shake," Horn said. "We've got to find ways to value-add here."

Chief Rose Laboucan of the Driftpile First Nation is totally disappointed by the decision, she said.

"After years of negotiations, thinking this project was possible and for them just to come out and tell us no -- that was totally like a slap in the face," said Laboucan.

"This was a hope for our (First Nations), that we can be a real participant in the Alberta landscape, especially in the oil and gas industry," she said.


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