Alberta Says It Must Act on Climate for Quebec Pipeline Nod

Updated on

Alberta will only win Quebec’s support for TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline if it generates jobs for Quebeckers and if the oil-rich province does more to protect the environment, Premier Rachel Notley said.

Alberta’s premier spoke with reporters Tuesday by telephone after meeting in Quebec City with her counterpart Philippe Couillard. Quebec’s premier hailed “a new ally” in Notley, a New Democrat whose party won power for the first time in Alberta in May.

Couillard “understands” energy is a key driver of Canada’s economy and that pipelines are “ultimately the best way to move that product,” Notley said.

“What they need to see is some meaningful action with respect to environmental protection and climate change and it needs to make economic sense for Quebec,” Notley said. “Those are not unreasonable standards.”

Carbon pricing and the Energy East pipeline were among the topics discussed Tuesday, with both governments agreeing on their importance, Quebec said in a statement.

The meeting “marks the start of a new era in our relations with Alberta,” Couillard said in the statement. “It’s already obvious that the new Alberta government has a keen interest in the Quebec initiatives to fight climate change.”

Quebec’s Conditions

Quebec’s government said last year it would require TransCanada to meet seven conditions before allowing construction of the pipeline. Among Quebec’s requirements are that the project be subject to an environmental assessment, that TransCanada guarantee an emergency plan in case of a spill, and that it consult with communities including aboriginal groups along the route.

Earlier this year, TransCanada scrapped its initial plan for a marine terminal in Cacouna, Quebec, as part of Energy East -- raising more questions about what economic benefit Quebec will derive from the project. The two premiers did not specifically discuss the terminal cancellation, Notley said.

“We understand the needs for job creation. I think there’s still a lot of options on the table,” she said.

Energy East, a C$12 billion ($9.4 billion) pipeline, would transport as much as 1.1 million barrels a day across six Canadian provinces to the nation’s Atlantic coast.

Alberta will sign on to a climate communique produced at a Quebec summit in April, during Alberta’s election, Notley announced. In the document, provincial leaders commit to implement measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “transition to a lower-carbon economy.”

Energy Talks

Notley deflected a question about whether Alberta would join Quebec’s cap-and-trade system, saying her government is still developing its climate change strategy. “I’m not going to predict or short-circuit that process,” she said.

The premier invited Couillard to visit Alberta, and to bring with him Quebec business leaders who “enjoy much prosperity” from the oil sands. Couillard plans to visit western province later this year with a group of executives from the “green technology” industry, according to Quebec’s statement.

Notley held talks with Couillard ahead of a meeting of Canadian premiers that begins Wednesday in Newfoundland and Labrador. The premiers are due to discuss the Canadian Energy Strategy, which has been in negotiation since 2012 but is now said not to include firm commitments on either energy infrastructure or climate change.

(Updates with Quebec conditions in seventh paragraph.)
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