11/06/2013 09:21 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:53 EST

Pipeline agreement dramatic step forward, energy experts say

Energy industry insiders say a preliminary pipeline agreement between Alberta and British Columbia is a positive step.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford and B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced on Tuesday that the two provinces have hammered out a framework agreement on how to move energy resources to new markets.

Alberta agreed to conditions on safety, environment, First Nations’ rights and spill prevention while B.C. has committed to signing the Alberta Energy Strategy.

The framework also stipulates that B.C. has a right to negotiate with industry on the economic benefits of pipeline projects in that province.

But both provinces agreed it’s not up to the governments of Alberta and B.C. to negotiate these benefits.

Todd Nogier, who speaks for Enbridge's Northern Gateway project, said it's too early to say what benefits might be negotiated with B.C.

“Well at this stage in the game we'll continue to have the dialogue with B.C. to see what they have in mind and we'll work with them to see if we can achieve that condition.”

Michael Moore, who teaches energy economics at the University of Calgary, characterized the deal as a dramatic step forward.

But he said it remains to be seen what recommendations are made by a joint review panel on the Northern Gateway pipeline.

“By definition this is still a work in progress but it certainly takes some of the pressure off and makes it more likely that if the special panel says yes that some of the next round of negotiations are going to be allowed to take place,” Moore said.

Former Alberta energy minister Rick Orman says the new inter-provincial agreement turns a political corner.

But he said a lot of work still must be done, such as negotiating with First Nations officials and addressing environmental concerns.

Orman, now an energy industry consultant, said there should be a special fund established that would cover the costs associated with accidents.

“I'm a big proponent of a super environmental fund. So that the provinces and the industry pay into a fund, like a heritage fund, and it is designed to deal with any major spills on the west coast,” he said.