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Quebec, Ontario Ask Ottawa to Delay Energy East Hearings

Quebec and Ontario are asking the federal government to delay hearings on TransCanada Corporation’s controversial Energy East pipeline until the process of modernizing the equally controversial National Energy Board has run its course.

“Quebec and Ontario recommend that one of the important outcomes of NEB modernization should be the introduction of a predictable framework for reviewing large energy projects in a way that increases public trust,” Quebec Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand and Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault wrote in a mid-June letter to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

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That language, an assistant to Arcand told Le Devoir, “signals that the Couillard government believes the federal authorities should wait until the [modernization] process concludes before launching its review of the Energy East pipeline,” writes correspondent Alexandre Shields.

But the federal government quickly sidestepped the request. “We do continue to have confidence in the NEB and the role it plays to support critical decisions on key projects during the review period, based on the interim principles announced in January 2016,” an NRCan spokesperson told National Observer. “The government of Canada will continue its efforts to restore public trust in our regulatory processes and environmental assessments, because without the trust of Canadians, no pipeline project will move forward.”

News of the back-and-forth correspondence began to emerge just a day after the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) released a report claiming that Quebec saw $1.2 billion in business contracts, $1.25 billion in GDP, 16,200 jobs, and $215 million in provincial tax revenue as a result of a year of tar sands/oil sands activity in 2014/15.

Quebec’s enduring business relationship with Canada’s oil sands proves to be a solid foundation for creating economic benefits, attracting investments, and generating revenues for public services,” said CAPP Vice President of Communications Jeff Gaulin. “Investing funds collected from carbon pricing into energy technology and innovation will clean our economy, extend the value of Canada’s abundant natural resources, and generate more revenue for governments, business communities, and individuals.

The release provided an inadvertent but interesting point of comparison for the economic impacts Quebec communities would expect to see in the event of a diluted bitumen spill along the Energy East route. Early last year, the 82 municipalities of the Montreal Metropolitan Community declared their opposition to Energy East after calculating that it would bring their region $2 million per year in economic benefits, but $1 to $10 billion in costs in the event of a major spill.

In a report a few months earlier, the Ontario Energy Board priced an oil spill clean-up at $1 billion.

“An oil spill can’t just be turned off, and it would affect multiple waterways, including water basins and groundwater—you have to take all of this into consideration,” Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said at the time. “Call a spade a spade: It’s a bad project.”