Monday, April 6, 2015

Belugas Slow Energy East Pipeline Project

The Energy East tar sands pipeline is off to a very rocky start. Concerns about the impacts on the local beluga whale population has forced the cancellation of a proposed terminal in Quebec. Further, plummeting oil prices call into question the financial viability of the project.

TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline project would ferry Alberta's tar sands to Saint John, New Brunswick. The 4,600 kilometre pipeline would carry 1.1 million barrels of oilsands crude each day for overseas export (that is a quarter million more barrels per day than the contentious Keystone XL pipeline).

In April the company announced that it was scrapping its plans to build a terminal in Cacouna, along the St. Lawrence River, just northeast of Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec. TransCanada announced that the $12 billion pipeline's completion date is being pushed back by two years. The new in service date is 2020 as opposed to 2018.

The port's noise and traffic would have disturbed the beluga whales that live in the area. The number of beluga's have dwindled from 10,000 down to 1000 in recent years. Beluga's are protected by Canadian law as a species designated "at risk" (some say they should be listed as endangered because they are dangerously close to extinction).

However, the decision to cancel the Cacouna terminal in no way signals that the ruling Conservatives are stepping back from supporting the project. As explained by Energy Minister Donald Arseneault, "This is a great project...its still going forward. Its just a minor hiccup." Arseneault added that he wants to, "see this project come through as quickly as we can." Other options for a terminal in Quebec are currently being explored.

Many have criticized the project for inadequate environmental assessments. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick said that TransCanada has a "moral responsibility" to withdraw its National Energy Board application entirely.

The counterpoint made by TransCanada is that the pipeline would generate jobs and tax revenues.

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