TransCanada Confirms No Energy East Tanker Terminal in Cacouna, Quebec, Near Beluga Breeding Grounds

TransCanada announced Thursday the company no longer plans to build an oil tanker terminal at the controversial site of Cacouna, Quebec, as part of its 1.1 million barrel-a-day Energy East oil pipeline project.

“TransCanada will be advising the NEB (National Energy Board) that the company will not be proceeding with a marine terminal in Cacouna and is evaluating other options,” the Calgary-based pipeline company said in a press release. Cacouna was TransCanada's lone Quebec terminal.

TransCanada used the announcement as an opportunity to take a shot at Energy East’s critics. 

“It goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway, our decision was certainly not made because of opposition from some well-funded groups that want to deny Canadians the right to benefit from a reliable domestic supply of energy that ensures Canadians enjoy the quality of life they’ve come to expect in this country every day,” TransCanada states on its Energy East website.

The comments are reminiscent of Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s foreign funded “radical groups” remarks regarding Northern Gateway pipeline opponents in 2012.  

TransCanada now projects the pipeline will be in operation in 2020, two years later than the original date of 2018.

Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, told the Globe and Mail the delay shows TransCanada is "clearly in damage-control mode."

“There is no chance TransCanada will find a place in Quebec where they will find the social licence to operate,” Patrick Bonin, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

“The majority of Quebec doesn’t want this project."

TransCanada lost face with the public when documents leaked to Greenpeace revealed the company's strategy to undermine opposition to the Energy East pipeline.

The proposal to build a marine oil tanker terminal for Energy East in Cacouna has been at the centre of controversy for months. Cacouna is near the breeding grounds of the declining St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whales. Last December, the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recommended placing the belugas on the species at risk list due to their dwindling numbers.

Russ Girling, TransCanada CEO, said the company cancelled the Cacouna terminal in response to concerns about the whales.

"This decision is the result of the recommended change in status of the Beluga whales to endangered and ongoing discussions we have had with communities and key stakeholders," he said in a statement.

Jennifer Skene from the Natural Resources Defense Council writes the loss of the terminal is the result of public opposition to the project.

"This is just another roadblock encountered by Energy East, as growing public opposition to tar sands continues to block proposed pipelines and undermine the industry's climate-destroying expansion plans." 

“By abandoning its tanker terminal plans for Cacouna, Quebec, TransCanada has finally admitted Energy East carries major risks for Canada,” Environmental Defence’s Adam Scott told the Globe and Mail.

“If TransCanada is serious about listening, it should move immediately to cancel the Energy East project,” he said.

Energy East is “an export pipeline that has nothing to do with meeting Canadian demand for oil," Scott added.

Canceling Cacouna No Surprise

Rumours of the decision to axe Cacouna from the pipeline project surfaced months ago.

Montreal-based newspaper La Presse, citing government sources, reported in February TransCanada was no longer considering Cacouna as the site for Energy East’s Quebec terminal. Similar reports resurfaced in La Presse and other news outlets this earlier week.

TransCanada denied all reports, claiming no decision had been reached. Originally, the pipeline company planned to unveil its decision on Cacouna last Tuesday, but delayed the announcement.

The possibility of an alternate Quebec terminal remains.

“Potential alternative terminal options in Quebec are being reviewed. Quebec and New Brunswick refineries would continue to be connected directly to Energy East,” a TransCanada press release states.

According to the company all changes to the Energy East project will be filed with the National Energy Board (NEB), Canada’s pipelines regulator, by the fall.

The regulatory process, which will partially decide the fate of the Energy East project, will not begin until TransCanada submits complete and finalized project plans on the pipeline. The NEB has already received over 1,800 applications from Canadians wishing to comment on the project.

Any changes to the project means the participant application process will likely be reopened, potentially allowing more members of the public to participate in the regulatory hearings. Hearings are now expected to begin in 2016.

Photo credit: Inhabitat

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