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TransCanada Reportedly Abandons Plans for Energy East Export Terminal in Endangered Beluga Habitat

TransCanada appears to have dumped plans for constructing a marine oil tanker export terminal at the controversial location of Cacouna, Quebec, as part of its Energy East oil pipeline project.

Several sources in the Quebec government told Montreal-based newspaper La Presse TransCanada is abandoning its plans for Cacouna, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, as the 1.1 million barrels-a-day pipeline project’s Quebec export terminal. A second terminal is proposed for Saint John, New Brunswick.

“This is a great citizen victory,” Patrick Bonin, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada in Montreal, said. Cacouna’s close proximity to the breeding grounds of the St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whales has been at the centre of controversy around the proposed marine terminal in Quebec.

TransCanada denies its has given up on Cacouna. According to a TransCanada spokesperson, the Calgary-based pipeline company intends on making a decision on the Cacouna terminal at the end of March. Francois Poirier, president of the Energy East, made the same announcement last week.

Construction and exploratory work in and around Cacouna has been at a standstill since last December when the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada announced the St. Lawrence’s belugas are at even greater risk of extinction than they were ten years ago. The committee concluded the belugas should be on Canada’s species-at-risk list.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who is not opposed to the $12 billion pipeline project, said he would find it hard to support the construction of the Cacouna marine terminal in light of the risks it could pose to the belugas’ dwindling numbers.

If TransCanada has decided not to build its deep-water terminal at Cacouna, finding an alternative in Quebec may prove difficult. The mayor and council of the port city of Levis, another a possible site for an Energy East export terminal, have been less than receptive to the idea in the past. In total eight potential sites in Quebec are under consideration by TransCanada for an export terminal.

Forgoing building a terminal in Quebec entirely will also make it harder for TransCanada to sell to Quebecers the argument the province will benefit economically from Energy East. A report last June revealed the economic benefits of the pipeline project will be “minimal” even with the construction of an export terminal.

Quebec groups demand suspension of Energy East review

“We want the NEB [National Energy Board] to suspend the regulatory process for Energy East. We don’t know the exact route [of the pipeline] anymore,” Bonin of Greenpeace told DeSmog Canada.

The NEB, Canada’s federal regulator of pipelines, kick started the regulatory process on Energy East last week when it made its ‘application to participate’ available to the public. Canadians wishing to have their comments on the pipeline project heard by the NEB must apply by the end of the month.

Groups in Quebec are already demanding the NEB halt the process due to the lack information on the project available to the public. The environmental group Centre Québécois du droit de l’environment (CQDE) and landowner France Lamonde are seeking a court injunction to halt the process until more information about the Energy East application is available in French.

TransCanada submitted a 30,000-page Energy East application to the NEB. Critics point out the massive application is still incomplete. The pipeline company plans on submitting more information later this month.

Image Credit: Bill Liao via Flickr

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