The New Brunswick government says it's "business as usual" with the Energy East pipeline, despite Quebec's move to force the project developer to go through that province's environmental review process.
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Environment Minister Brian Kenny says the Gallant government still believes the project does not have to go through a full provincial environmental impact assessment because the pipeline will cross several provinces.
That means the National Energy Board is the only regulator that needs to review the project, Kenny told reporters Tuesday.
"It is an interprovincial pipeline and we're going to follow the rules that exist right now," he said. "It's business as usual for us."
Quebec announced Tuesday it will seek an injunction to force TransCanada, the company behind the Energy East proposal, to file paperwork to trigger a full provincial environmental review.
So far, TransCanada has not responded to Quebec's request that it give formal notice of the project, though the company is scheduled to appear before a provincial board next week for a less stringent review.
TransCanada is citing the same argument as Kenny, that a pipeline crossing more than one province is subject only to a federal environmental impact assessment.
Province defers to feds
A British Columbia court ruled last month the B.C. government was wrong to hand off environmental review of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Ottawa.
The court ruled that the province should have consulted aboriginal people before giving up jurisdiction.
But Kenny insisted Tuesday there's no reason New Brunswick can't defer to the federal process.
"We will follow the steps with the National Energy Board," Kenny said, "and apply for intervener status to look at what's taking place here in New Brunswick with pipelines."
The Gallant Liberals are enthusiastic supporters of the Energy East pipeline proposal. Quebec's Liberal government hasn't officially opposed it, but it is facing strong opposition to the project in the province.
Kenny wouldn't comment directly on Quebec's position, though he said "it's their right to do what they're doing today."
"This is a Canadian project and it's a project that's going across the country, and every province will have their say in it. We'll follow our process and we'll allow Quebec to do what they're going to do."
Green Party wants review
Green party leader David Coon, an opponent of Energy East, complained last year that TransCanada should be filing paperwork for a full provincial review in New Brunswick.
"It's the same issue, only the Quebec government has decided to go to court," Coon said Tuesday.
Coon said even with new transitional rules brought in by the Trudeau government for Energy East, the federal review process is weak because it was "gutted" by the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
"We're still dealing with a very poor piece of federal legislation that's not up to the task of properly doing environmental assessments, while we've got legislation in the provinces that's more comprehensive these days," he said.
Brian Kierstead, PC environment critic, says he's worried Quebec's move "could kill the project, not just delay it."
Noting other pipelines already run through Quebec, Kierstead said the government there "is going to stop something for New Brunswick that they're already supporting in other aspects within their own boundaries."
But he was also vague on whether a pipeline review should be exclusively federal. "The jury's still out on that in many, many ways," he said.
"You've got to be cognizant of the concerns of each and every province, and their population."