TransCanada has scrapped plans to build an oil export port in Quebec as part of its proposed Energy East pipeline.

The Calgary-based company said in a statement Thursday morning it was acting on comments it received from local groups, partners and its clients.

Last April, TransCanada announced it would not build a port in Cacouna, Que., after months of protests from environmentalists concerned about a breeding ground for beluga whales.

The decision to drop the Cacouna terminal came following a government recommendation to recognize beluga whales as an endangered species.


The original pipeline plan would have seen the port built right in the middle of a beluga whale habitat in Quebec. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

At the time, the company said it was "evaluating other options" for a port in Quebec.

In the statement, TransCanada president Russ Girling said Thursday's announcement "demonstrates our dedication to listening and delivering a vital infrastructure project that will provide significant economic benefits to all provinces along the pipeline's route."

The company said it will submit its changes to the National Energy Board, and that the pipeline should be up and running by 2020.

The proposed project would see TransCanada ship 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta to New Brunswick.

TransCanada said the pipeline would bring oil to refineries in Montreal and Lévis, Que., as well as Saint John.

Quebec questions benefits

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters Thursday that the lack of an export port in Quebec makes the pipeline proposal less appealing for the province. 

"With a port in the province, it's quite simple to calculate the benefits in terms of infrastructure, jobs," he said.

"Without it, I'm not saying it's impossible, but it becomes even more complicated."

David Heurtel, the province's environment minister, said the announcement doesn't change the province's review process.

"We're going to apply all the environmental laws in Quebec," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldn't commit outright to the proposal during the election campaign.

Environmentalists claim victory

Steven Guilbeault, of the environmental group Equiterre, called the decision a "major victory for citizens who mobilized themselves, who worked their city councils."

"I mean we have always been of the opinion that it is not a good project for Quebec from a social perspective … and from an economical perspective we think that the risks far outweighed the potential benefits," he said.

Guilbeaut suggested the decision to scrap the Quebec port could put the project in jeopardy because the province is unlikely to give the go-ahead with fewer potential jobs on the line.

TransCanada Energy East pipeline

TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline would ship crude from Alberta to New Brunswick. (Canadian Press)