Varcoe: Girling steps down after decade leading TC Energy and the fight for Keystone XL

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“It is making progress.”

Aside from KXL, Girling unveiled what he called a “truly transformational” deal in 2016 with the acquisition of Columbia, gaining key infrastructure in the northeastern United States and expanding its gas pipeline assets by almost 40 per cent.

The deal marked TransCanada’s biggest acquisition since its 1998 blockbuster merger with Nova Corp.

“What they really did is took a massive, largely Canadian company … and made it a really North American and industry leader in the continent,” said Pourbaix.

In October 2017, the company cancelled the Energy East project in October 2017, a $15.7-billion plan to build a pipeline that could move oil from Western Canada all the way to the East Coast. Facing regulatory and commercial challenges, Girling later cited the project’s complexity for why it was shelved.

In 2019, TransCanada decided to rename itself TC Energy to reflect “our transition to becoming a North American energy infrastructure company,” Girling told the company’s annual meeting that spring.

Even for a company with a market capitalization of $56 billion, that’s a lot of action in a decade. Poirier, who joined TC as president of the Energy East pipeline and was later responsible for the structuring and negotiation of the Columbia acquisition, will have his hands full.

The new CEO will have to be prepared to engage in the market access debate, as well as face other outside pressures facing the industry, from energy transition to ESG issues.

And he will have to take up the public cause of the Keystone XL and Coastal GasLink projects now under construction.

“There’s probably no company more at the very forefront of this contest between the (energy) opponents … and the company that was actually trying to practically execute this infrastructure — and it still is,” said McConaghy.

“Coastal GasLink and KXL are still in that fight and Francois will still have to deal with that next year.”

Chris Varcoe is a Calgary Herald columnist.


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