Montréal, February 18, 2016 – This morning, the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, Équiterre, the Coule pas chez nous foundation and Nature Québec filed a motion with the Superior Court in Montréal for a declaratory judgment against TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. and Energy East Pipeline Ltd. in order to subject the Energy East pipeline project to the procedure required under the Quebec law.
Me Michel Bélanger, the lawyer representing the four moving parties, stated that “Subsections 31.1 and following of the Environment Quality Act (EQA) and Section 2 of the Regulation respecting environmental impact assessment and review stipulate that any pipeline more than 2 km long is subject to undergoing the environmental impact assessment and review procedure of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) and to obtaining an authorization certificate from the Government of Québec. This mandatory assessment and authorization procedure has been in effect for over 35 years.”
Despite three letters sent by the Minister of Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte aux changements climatiques in 2014 reminding the Alberta company of its legal obligations under the Environment Quality Act, TransCanada has yet to file a project notice with the Ministry. Filing such a project notice is actually what initiated the Quebec environmental impact assessment and review procedure.
Faced with the refusal of TransCanada to comply, Minister David Heurtel has entrusted the BAPE with a truncated mandate under Section 6.3 of the EQA, a provision that has never served before to assess a development project. Public hearings for this alternate BAPE inquiry procedure should start on March 7, 2016.
Anne-Céline Guyon of the Coule pas chez nous foundation said that “the assessment procedure announced by the Government of Québec under Section 6.3 of the Act has serious flaws with respect to the rights of Quebeckers and citizens taking part in public hearings. The most salient consequence is that the process will not allow the Government to make a decision regarding the project and the conditions under which it will be carried out; instead, it will result in the production of a simple brief that the Government of Québec will submit to the National Energy Board (NEB), a federal government body. That said, the Premier clearly stated that Quebec would have its say in the project.”
For Law Professor Jean Baril, author of Le BAPE devant les citoyens and CQDE Vice-President, “this procedure entails several other negative outcomes: lack of specific guidelines from the Minister regarding the content of the impact assessment to be prepared by the proponent; incomplete or non-existent documentation on certain issues specific to Quebec; exclusion of fundamental issues such as economic aspects and Native rights from public hearings; lack of authorization from the Government of Québec to ensure compliance with the conditions specified by the National Assembly and conclusions of the assessment and review procedure for this project as provided for by the law; and avoidance of more than $136,000 in fees payable under the mandatory procedure.”
In the opinion of Christian Simard, Executive Director of Nature Québec, “only the complete environmental assessment procedure provided for by the Environment Quality Act can provide a minimum measure guaranteeing Quebeckers’ rights to information and participation and their right to a healthy environment respectful of biodiversity. We do not understand why the Government of Québec settled for the company’s refusal to comply with its laws and chose to circumvent this legal obligation. The TransCanada project relates to several other Quebec laws, including the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Quebec, the Sustainable Development Act and the Act to Affirm the Collective Nature of Water Resources and Provide for Increased Water Resource Protection.”
“To avoid confusion and prevent the waste of energy and money involved in potentially resuming the assessment and review process, but established this time in full respect of the law, we are asking the Government of Québec to suspend the current BAPE procedure to allow the Superior Court time to rule on TransCanada’s obligations in this respect,” added Sidney Ribaux, Équiterre Executive Director.
TransCanada’s Energy East project involves building a pipeline to carry 1.1 million barrels of “dirty” tar sands oil over a distance of 4,600 km, from Alberta to New Brunswick. The longest section of the new pipeline would cross Quebec over more than 700 km, the largest part of which consisting of a pipeline formerly used to carry natural gas. Most of the oil would then be exported to international markets. With this pipeline, new oil sands mines would be built in Western Canada, adding 32 megatonnes to Canada’s GHG emissions. The company announced that the project would create 33 direct jobs in Quebec after the building phase.
PLease see the fact sheets related to this declaratory judgment : http://bit.ly/1SOc7Ir
Members of the public wishing to support this legal action are invited to make a donation to the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement at : https://cqde.org/
For more information:
Me Michel Bélanger, lawyer of the moving organizations, 514 927-6195
Julie Tremblay, Équiterre, 514 966-6992, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian Simard, Nature Québec, 418 928-1150
Me Karine Péloffy, CQDE, 514 746 6597, email@example.com
Anne-Céline Guyon, President of Fondation Coule pas chez nous, 581 989-0815