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Regional concerns over the contentious Energy East project have taken on an interesting twist recently. Quebec is seeking an injunction against the proponent of the proposed Energy East pipeline project, Trans Canada Corporation, forcing the company to submit the project to provincial environmental assessment. The request came shortly in advance of environmental hearings conducted by the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l’environment (“BAPE”) for the project, which commenced earlier this week.

With Energy East, TransCanada is proposing to establish a 4,600 km pipeline between Alberta and New Brunswick. The pipeline would eventually transport 1.1-million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to refineries in Ontario and Quebec, with ultimate export by marine terminal in New Brunswick to overseas markets.

The project has proven exceedingly controversial, generating protests and court challenges by groups concerned over the proposed project’s environmental footprint, including the possibility of spills as well as upstream and downstream impacts arising from pollution and greenhouse gas emissions generated during the use, refinement, and extraction of the hydrocarbons the pipeline would transport. Montreal mayor Denis Coderre has recently become vocal about municipal concerns over the proposed project.

While TransCanada and Quebec had agreed previously that the company would participate in BAPE hearings  in addition to the federally required hearings conducted by the NEB, the province is now angling to have the project undergo a provincial environmental assessment as well.

This appears to be inspired, at least in part, by a recent decision from a BC court requiring that province to conduct its own environmental assessment of another contentious pipeline project–Northern Gateway. BC refused to subject the project to a provincial review as the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office and the federal National Energy Board had signed an agreement purporting to remove the need for a provincial assessment, arguing BC law did not require one in the circumstances.

At this juncture, Quebec has expressed its concern that if it fails to conduct its own provincial environmental assessment of the proposed Energy East project, it could be exposed to a similar legal challenge. It brought an injunction application to force TransCanada Corp. to comply with provincial law and submit the Energy East project for a provincial environmental assessment.

Meanwhile, last week, a Quebec court rejected an injunction application filed by a number of provincial environmental groups that sought to stay the BAPE proceedings until the project could undergo a provincial environmental assessment.

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