A TransCanada spokesman says the company was taken aback when the Quebec government announced it's planning legal action over the Energy East pipeline.

Tim Duboyce says the Calgary-based firm believed issues surrounding the province's review of the cross-Canada oil pipeline had long been resolved.

Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel says the government sent two letters to TransCanada in late 2014 advising that Energy East must submit to a provincial environmental assessment.

Heurtel says he got no response from the company, so the government would have to ask for an injunction to force TransCanada to follow provincial rules.

However, Duboyce says there were a series of discussions with the minister's office in early 2015 and the two sides agreed on a provincial process that would not include a full-fledged environmental impact study.

Hearings to begin

Map of Energy East

TransCanada Corp.'s proposed pipeline project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day from Alberta through Quebec to an export terminal in Saint John, N.B. (Canadian Press)

Quebec announced that process last June and hearings are to begin on Monday.

"At the time we were of the impression the issue raised in the two older letters had thus been resolved, an impression reinforced by the fact we did not receive any other indication there remained an issue until (Tuesday)," said Duboyce.

Pipelines that cross provincial boundaries are subject to a federal environmental review process administered by the National Energy Board. The federal cabinet makes the final decision, taking into account the NEB's recommendation.

Provinces conduct their own reviews to help formulate their positions, which are considered in the NEB process.

Quebec's move was slammed in some quarters. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall warned Tuesday it would be "divisive."

But Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said after discussions with Quebec and federal officials, there's no cause for alarm.

She said it seems the Quebec government is not seeking a veto over Energy East, but rather wants to do a review similar to one Ontario did last fall.

"I am going to leave the gun in the holster until we are actually at the gunfight, and we are not there right now," Notley said.