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The Quebec government is launching an injunction to force the Energy East pipeline project to comply with provincial environmental rules.
The injunction was filed Tuesday after TransCanada Pipelines ignored requests from Environment Minister David Heurtel that the project be submitted for provincial review, the minister said.
“The government is acting to make sure Quebec law is respected,” Mr. Heurtel said.
“This application must not be interpreted as the government being for or against the project.
The move comes after a British Columbia court ruled in January that the province had a responsibility to examine the Northern Gateway project in that province.
Mr. Heurtel said the B.C. decision “had an impact” on Quebec’s court action but it wasn’t the only reason. He sent two letters to TransCanada in 2014 asking it to submit to a full environmental review. He got no response.
TransCanada maintains the project to build and convert 4,600 kilometres of pipeline to transport 1.1-million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to New Brunswick is under federal jurisdiction. It has an application before the National Energy Board, which is mandated to examine the economic, environmental and social effects of the pipeline.
Quebec is holding public hearings starting next Monday but they are proceeding without a full environmental review. “We are complying with that, we are fully participating with that, we feel it’s a great opportunity to answer the questions the commissioners and the public are going to have about the project,” said Tim Duboyce, spokesman for TransCanada Pipelines. “That will provide the government with a comprehensive picture of the project when the NEB hearings take place.”
Quebec environmental groups launched court action seeking a full environmental review two weeks ago. They applauded Quebec’s move Tuesday. “It’s good to see the government taking independent steps to reach the same conclusion as us,” said Jean-Patrick Toussaint, head of scientific projects at the David Suzuki Foundation.
Ontario has conducted consultations through its own energy board, and the data will be submitted to the NEB. Mr. Heurtel took pains to reassure the energy sector the government is not taking a position against the pipeline. “In Quebec companies know if they want to develop major projects like this one, they have to submit to an environmental impact assessment. We’re not trying to block a project,” he said. “We just want our laws respected.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall took to social media to express his irritation at resistance in Quebec to the project. “Some in Canada say carbon taxes in west would gain support for pipelines across country. How’s that working?” he wrote, linking to a story about the injunction.