Four environmental groups are fighting to get a temporary injunction to stop exploratory drilling in the Saint Lawrence River.

They say the TransCanada pipeline project threatens a nursing ground for beluga whales.

Drilling is expected to begin near Cacouna, Que., just northeast of Rivière-du-Loup, on Sept. 2, but lawyers argued in court Friday for an injunction.

Karine Peloffy, an administrator of the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement, said the main issue is protecting a beluga nursery in the region.

“Specifically this area around Cacouna because it’s shallower so the females feel more safe feeding their with their newborns than they would where it’s deeper,” Peloffy said.

cacouna beluga map

There are nurseries of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River near Cacouna. (Google Maps)

Michel Bélanger, the lawyer representing the four groups, argued in court that Quebec’s environment ministry delivered permits to allow work to go ahead based on scientific information the groups say is not sufficient.

“Our experts filed [evidence pertaining] to the risk of the beluga population, and of the lack of scientific opinion of both levels of government [that] approved the works,” Peloffy said.

The TransCanada Energy East pipeline project includes converting an existing natural gas pipeline to an oil transportation pipeline.

The company wants to ship oil from Alberta to refineries in Eastern Canada and put a port in Cacouna to help get it there.

The pipeline will deliver oil to existing refineries in Montreal, Quebec City and Saint John.

Superior Court Justice Claudine Roy is expected to give her decision Tuesday morning.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story referred to exploratory drilling for oil. In fact, the company is doing exploratory drilling to determine the feasibility of a port.
    Sep 23, 2014 4:51 PM ET