Quebec, Montreal officials applaud Energy East pipeline cancellation
Quebec’s environment minister and the Montreal mayor are calling it a win.
TransCanada has cancelled plans for the Energy East pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects that were to take Alberta oilsands production to Quebec and New Brunswick.
"After careful review of changed circumstances, we will be informing the National Energy Board that we will no longer be proceeding with our Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications," TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said in a statement Thursday.
TransCanada will also withdraw from a Quebec environmental review, said Girling.
The project faced strong opposition from elected officials in the province.
"It is a victory," said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Environment Minister David Heurtel said TransCanada didn’t have much choice but to scrap the project, saying he believes the company realized numerous elements weren't in place in order to have a successful conclusion of the project.
He pointed to the new realities in the context of fighting climate change, adding that Quebecers are relying less on fossil fuels and transitioning towards renewable energy.
The Quebec government imposed seven key conditions TransCanada would have been required to respect to move forward with the project, including consulting with local municipalities and with Indigenous communities, as well as submitting to a Quebec environmental impact assessment
TransCanada was opposed to that condition, forcing Quebec to file a court injunction to require the company to submit to its environmental review process.
Heurtel said the project wasn't well explained to Quebecers.
“Social acceptability is a key component of any project,” he said. “You can't just come in and say, ‘OK, we're going to do this.’ And you have to adapt your project to the realities of the local governments,” adding that they would have to “adapt to the realities and the legislative context of individual provinces.”
The premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick said they're disappointed the $16-billion project won’t go ahead, saying it would have created 9,200 jobs during construction.
Meanwhile, Coderre was pleased.
"The abandonment of the Energy East project is a major victory for the municipal world," Coderre said.
The mayor and other elected officials had long argued the environmental risks far outweighed the economic benefits.
"We're talking about a project that was going through I think over 700 rivers and streams across Quebec including the St. Lawrence River, including the Ottawa River," said Heurtel.
Coderre also thanked local Indigenous groups for their leadership on the pipeline file.
“We are pleased it was abandoned,” he said. “It’s important to send as a message that we need to cover all the angles… It was pretty clear it was a bad project.”
The Montreal Economic Institute disagreed with that assessment, saying pipelines are a safe way transport oil.
The group pointed to a poll that showed 65 per cent of Quebecers and 68 per cent of Canadians would prefer their oil come from western Canada instead of abroad.
The Conseil du Patronat, Quebec's largest employers’ group, expressed its disappointment, saying from day one, this project ran into a brick wall of opposition.
“While we ultimately support getting off oil, oil is still necessary today,” they said in a statement.
Germain Belzile of the Montreal Economic Institute said the decision is bad for the national economy.I
"We will continue consuming as much oil as before. It's simply going to be transported in other ways or come from other countries," said Belzile.