Energy East pipeline: What you need to know about the Quebec hearings

Quebec's environmental regulation agency begin hearings today into the controversial Energy East pipeline project. Here's everything you need to know about the hearings.

BAPE hearings begin into TransCanada's controversial pipeline project

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

There's plenty at stake as Quebec's environmental hearings begin today into the controversial Energy East pipeline project. 

Here's what you need to know about the BAPE review into the $15.7-billion project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day of western crude as far east as Saint John. 

How do the hearings work? 

They will be held in Lévis, near Quebec City, from Monday March, 7, to Thursday, March 17.  Video conference halls have also been set up in Laval and Trois-Rivières.

The full schedule is available here.

The public will have an opportunity to share their opinion on the project in a second round of hearings scheduled to begin on April 25.  Details on how to participate can be found here.

A final report based on the BAPE hearings is to be delivered to the Quebec government in November 2016.

Does the outcome matter?

Ultimately, the federal government decides whether the Energy East pipeline project gets the go-ahead, but the BAPE hearings could have major consequences.

Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel announced last week the province is seeking an injunction against the Energy East pipeline project. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
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.

But provinces, including Quebec, are conducting their own reviews to help formulate their positions, which are considered in the NEB process.

What is the Couillard government's position?

The Quebec government announced last week it's going to court to ensure the plans for the Quebec portion of the project respect the province's environmental laws and regulations.

But the province has stressed the court battle isn't an attempt to shut down the project, but instead to assert provincial environmental jurisdiction.

"I want to point out that this should not be interpreted as us being for or against the project," Environment Minister David Heurtel said last week. 

"Rather, as in other provinces, it is an attempt to have our laws and regulations respected." 

Will TransCanada take part in the hearings?

Yes. TransCanada has indicated it will participate in the BAPE hearings.

"We will answer the questions, we will bring the maximum amount of information," said Louis Bergeron, the vice-president responsible for the Energy East file.

"We believe that this is the best way to make Quebecers aware of the project and reach the level of social acceptability that we desire."

What happened to the environmental coalition's injunction?

A coalition of environmental groups was seeking an injunction because it believes the hearings will not be complete without impact studies from TransCanada, which is behind the proposed pipeline.

But a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled last week the hearings can go ahead.

The coalition argued Quebec's environmental regulation agency has been given a "truncated mandate" because of the absence of impact studies submitted to the province.

TransCanada has not replied to the Quebec government's requests for formal notice, saying Energy East is subject only to federal regulation.

with files from Canadian Press


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