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TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline Will Cost Quebec Economy $100M Annually, Says Provincial Gas Provider

Steven Guilbeault is co-founder and president of Equiterre, a Quebec-based social and environmental solutions non-profit supporting communities opposed to the expansion of the oilsands and construction of the Energy East pipeline.

I recently attended a luncheon at the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and the speaker was none other than Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Gaz Métro.

According to Ms. Brochu and contrary to what TransCanada is trying to sell us, the Energy East project, far from being beneficial to Quebec, will have serious economic impacts on top of its enviornmental effects.

Why? Mainly because TransCanada would have to convert one of its lines carrying natural gas from the west to begin transporting oil from the oilsands. TransCanada has propositioned natural gas distributors in Quebec and Ontario to build them a new gas line, but that would cost $2.2 billion in addition to a reduction in the gas transport capacity from western Canada.

This TransCanada decision would have several spin-off effects:

–        Price increases for Gaz Métro customers in Quebec would total $100 million per year, an increase of 155 per cent;

–        As gas in the east will become more limited and expensive, some Gaz Métro customers will likely turn to heavy fuel oil, an extremely hazardous by-product of oil refining;

–        The potential increase in the use of oil would increase greenhouse gases in Quebec by 300,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, increasing local air pollution.

TransCanada has so antagonized Quebec representatives that Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Quebec Chamber of Commerce, publicly questioned whether the Energy East project is in the economic interests of Quebec at the conference in front of hundreds of dinner guests.

An environmental group denouncing an Energy East project is nothing new, but I cannot remember the last time a commerce CEO did so.

Ms. Brochu, as the head of Gaz Métro, deserves commendation for bringing the effects Energy East will have on gas consumers to light. But at the same time, it’s worth asking why these considerations weren’t made public by the government of Quebec.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard recently said, "we have to participate in the Canadian economy.” But surely he didn’t mean the Quebec must sacrifice its economic health for provinces like Alberta, or oil and gas companies. Right?

Image Credit: Ecology Ottawa

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