Quebec Files Injunction to Force TransCanada to Respect Law

  • Environmental assessment agency begins investigation next week
  • TransCanada spokesman says he's perplexed by Quebec decision

Quebec is taking legal action to enjoin TransCanada Corp. to comply with the province’s environmental laws as the pipeline operator proceeds with plans to build the Energy East project.

Attorney General Stephanie Vallee filed a motion Tuesday for an injunction against TransCanada and its Energy East Pipeline Ltd. unit “to ensure that the environmental assessment of the Quebec portion of their Energy East Pipeline Project complies with Quebec environmental impact assessment and review procedures as set out in the Environment Quality Act,” according to a statement.

“Today the government is not coming out for or against the project. The government is acting to ensure its laws are respected,” Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel said at a televised news conference in Montreal. “This is not east against west, one province against another. What’s at stake here is a company that wants to do a project in Quebec and isn’t respecting the laws of Quebec.”

TransCanada faces widespread opposition to its project within Canada’s second most populous province. In January, a group of mayors from Quebec led by Montreal’s Denis Coderre came out against Energy East, arguing the environmental risks outweigh the economic benefits. Premier Philippe Couillard has set seven conditions for the province’s support and given no deadline for a decision.

Company ‘Perplexed’

TransCanada is “perplexed” by the government’s decision, according to Louis Bergeron, Energy East’s vice president for Quebec and New Brunswick.

“Our application to the National Energy Board comprises much of the information that is requested by the minister,” Bergeron told reporters in Montreal. “If there is additional information required, it will be provided in March.”

Quebec’s review appears to be an effort to help the province gather information for its submission to the National Energy Board, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday from Edmonton. If that changes, Notley will come out with “all guns blazing,” she said. 

“We’re going to monitor this and until we learn more, I’ll keep the gun in the holster,” Notley said, adding that she will discuss that matter with Quebec’s Couillard in Vancouver on Wednesday. Alberta has hired legal counsel, she added.

“If we are going to build this country we must get pipelines to tidewater,” Notley said. “This is the role of the federal government.”

Awaiting Documents

While TransCanada submitted its application in December to the National Energy Board, the company has yet to file the documents required by the Environment Quality Act for the Quebec portion of its project, according to Heurtel.

TransCanada is “perplexed” by the government’s decision, according to Louis Bergeron, Energy East’s vice president for Quebec and New Brunswick.

“Our application to the National Energy Board comprises much of the information that is requested by the minister,” Bergeron told reporters in Montreal. “If there is additional information required, it will be provided in March.”

The province’s environmental assessment agency will lead an investigation on the Quebec portion of the project starting March 7. Its report will assist the government in developing the position Quebec will take at National Energy Board hearings. The federal agency is scheduled to announce its decision by July 2018.

Environmental hearings are “certainly the best vehicle for TransCanada to answer the questions and preoccupations of citizens,” Bergeron said. “Sharing the information, answering questions, we are prepared to do all that starting next week.”

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