Montreal

TransCanada backs down, will submit pipeline impact study to Quebec

The Quebec government is promising to drop the legal action it took against TransCanada following the Calgary company's decision to submit an environmental impact study of its proposed EnergyEast pipeline.

Quebec agrees, in turn, to drop court proceedings against Calgary company

Environment Minister David Heurtel is promising to cease legal action against TransCanada if it submits an impact study of its pipeline. (CBC)

The Quebec government is promising to drop the legal action it took against TransCanada following the Calgary company's decision to submit an environmental impact study of its proposed EnergyEast pipeline.

Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel announced on Friday the government had received a formal notice of application for the pipeline project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta to New Brunswick.

TransCanada had insisted for months that such a measure was unnecessary. Under Quebec's environmental laws, a notice of application would force the company to undergo a more stringent review process, including submitting an impact study to the province.

TransCanada's refusal angered not only Quebec City, but environmental groups as well. They too had sought an injunction against the company. 

But TransCanada is now reversing its initial position. Heurtel indicated that with the notice of application, the pipeline will receive a more detailed assessment.

The next step in that process, he said, is for the company to complete its impact study, which the government expects by June 6. 

"Within this new context, Quebec... is reconsidering its application for a permanent injunction against TransCanada and is promising to withdraw it when the environmental impact study impact study is approved," Heurtel said in a statement.

Decision by 2018

The Quebec government also agreed to provide TransCanada a definitive decision on whether it will support the pipeline by 2018.

It was having that detailed timeline in place that convinced TransCanada executives to agree to take part in the stricter review process. 

"You need to have a timetable and a minimum of certainty. How long is [the review process] going to take and when is it going to end?" said Louis Bergeron, TransCanada's vice-president for New Brunswick and Quebec. 

"That is what we were looking and that is what we have right now."

Quebec's decision to seek an injunction against TransCanada brought swift rebuke from several Western politicians, including Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

Backers of the $15.7-billion pipeline say it's necessary to improve the economic fortunes of the Western provinces, which have been hit hard by the global drop in oil prices and are seeking a way to get oil onto ships for export. 

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)

With files from CBC journalist Ryan Hicks

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