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Montreal Formally Opposes TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline

Montreal Mayor Denise Coderre announced Thursday the city's formal opposition to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. The 4,600-kilometer west-to-east oil pipeline project would see 1,600 kilometres of new pipe built along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and in New Brunswick.

"We are against it because it still represents significant environmental threats and too few economic benefits for greater Montreal," Coderre said in a press conference.

Groups opposed to the 1.1 million barrels-a-day project, which is significantly larger than TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, welcomed the announcement.

“Today, 82 municipal counsellors, representing 3.9 million citizens in the greater Montreal region, have issued a resounding ‘no’ to the Energy East project and to TransCanada Corporation,” Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director at Équiterre, said in a media release.

Coderre’s announcement came after 82 municipalities comprising the Communauté Municipale de Montréal (Montreal Metropolitan Community) voted this morning on whether to approve or oppose the project. Energy East’s proposed route would go through the northern municipalities of the greater Montreal-area.

“We’re really happy,” Audrey Yank, spokesperson for Montreal-based citizens-group Coalition Vigilance Oleoducs told DeSmog Canada. “It feels like a another small victory to give us hope.”

“TransCanada is asking us to bear all the risks of Energy East in exchange for very small benefits,” Yank said.

Energy East has faced stiff opposition in Quebec for over a year now. TransCanada’s plan to build an export tanker terminal in Quebec near the calving waters of endangered beluga whales was met by public outcry. Even Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who is not an Energy East opponent, suggested publicly TransCanada should look some place else for its terminal.

In the face of growing Quebec public opposition to the pipeline, TransCanada scrapped plans for building a terminal anywhere in Quebec last November.

But by canceling plans to build a terminal in Quebec, selling the project to Quebecers on the basis of economic benefits has become difficult. The Montreal Metropolitan Community conducted public consultations on Energy East last fall and the majority of those who participated were against the project.

In a 2015 poll, 57 percent of Quebecers expressed their opposition to Energy East.

Montreal is the first major city to come out against the project to transport oilsands (also called tar sands) bitumen across the country from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick. Winnipeg and Ottawa also sit along Energy East’s purposed route, but neither has shown the same degree of opposition as Montreal as of yet.

Ottawa-resident Mike Fletcher is hoping this will change soon.

“Ottawa has more risk and potentially less benefit than Montreal from this horrible proposal. The pipe through Ottawa is used, as opposed to proposed new pipe in Montreal,” Fletcher told DeSmog Canada.

“But so far Ottawa's reaction has been mixed. We are glad that the City will produce a letter of comment to the National Energy Board, but most of our municipal elected officials need to square up against Energy East,” Fletcher said. The 3,000 kilometres of the proposed pipeline situated west of Quebec is an existing natural gas line TransCanada plans on converting to oil.

Fletcher has played a key role in local group Ecology Ottawa’s campaign against the Energy East pipeline over the last two years. Ecology Ottawa was one of several environmental organizations targeted by a botched TransCanada PR campaign to undermine pipeline opponents in 2014.

Provincial governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick support the project. Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have all been guarded in their statements about Energy East, neither denouncing nor fully endorsing their provinces acting as a thoroughfare for the pipeline.

Ontario’s energy regulator examined TransCanada’s application for Energy East and concluded the project was not in the best interest of Canada’s most populous province.

Audrey Yank from Coalition Vigilance Oleoducs is concerned that Montreal’s analysis of the Energy East project does not cover the potential impacts the pipeline could have on climate change. 

“It appears the analysis does not address green house gas emissions. Climate change should be part of the analysis, especially after the Paris climate talks,” Yank said.

“We can’t build fossil fuels infrastructure that lasts 40 or 50 years if we need to get to a zero-carbon economy by 2050,” Yank told DeSmog Canada.

Montreal’s announcement comes amongst a flurry of protests and calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep his election promise to initiate new regulatory reviews of Energy East and Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in B.C. that will include climate impacts, and stronger recognition of First Nations’ concerns.

Image Credit: Ville de Montréal via Flickr

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