CALGARY—National cohesion on Energy East seemed to drift further out of reach on March 1 after the Quebec government announced plans to seek an injunction against the company proposing the cross-Canada pipeline.
Environment Minister David Heurtel said his government got no response from TransCanada Corp. to two letters it sent in late 2014 advising that the $15.7-billion project must pass a provincial environmental impact assessment.
So he said the province intends to go to court to make sure the Calgary-based company obeys provincial rules.
“In the face of its neglect, the government has taken action,” Heurtel said. “This is not only a matter of respect, but equally a question of fairness toward all companies that wish to do business in Quebec.”
Heurtel stressed that the announcement does not mean the province has decided whether it’s for or against the project. He also sought to defuse any potential backlash from Western Canada.
“This is not directed at any province or region,” said Heurtel. “This is about one company that wants to do a project in Quebec which, in our opinion, is not respecting Quebec law.”
Nonetheless, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said the move is likely to be “divisive.”
“Let’s respect the fact that there is a national process in place,” he said. “Provinces shouldn’t be slapping their own processes on top of that, especially when it is trying to avoid the project happening at all.”
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said if Quebec wants the power to veto the pipeline, the province will fight back vigorously.
But based on discussions she’s had, that does not appear to be the case. “I am going to leave the gun in the holster until we are actually at the gunfight,” she said.
Pipelines that cross provincial boundaries are subject to a federal environmental review process administered by the National Energy Board. The federal cabinet makes the final decision based on the NEB’s recommendation.
Provinces conduct their own reviews to help formulate their positions, which are considered in the NEB process. Quebec’s environmental regulation agency is to begin hearings March 7.
In light of that impending process, TransCanada called Quebec’s move “perplexing.”
Louis Bergeron, vice-president in Quebec and New Brunswick for Energy East, said the BAPE (the French-language acronym for the environment review body) already has most of the necessary documentation Heurtel cited.
“If there’s additional information that is required, we will be providing it during the BAPE hearings,” he said.
Former NEB chairman Gaetan Caron, who now is with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said there’s nothing particularly new about provinces voicing concern over a project’s environmental impact.
“What has changed for the NEB has been the politicization of regulatory process for pipelines.”
From The Canadian Press