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Energy East pipeline threatens beluga whales in the St. Lawrence

CBC reports, “A beluga whale habitat near Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec may be in jeopardy if plans go ahead for the Energy East pipeline. TransCanada wants to build a pipeline to ship oil from Alberta to refineries in Eastern Canada (and export markets beyond) and put a port in Cacouna, just northeast of Rivière-du-Loup, to help get it there. But these plans put a port right in the middle of an at-risk beluga population.”


“The deep water St. Lawrence Estuary beluga population is a species at risk of extinction and is protected under the Species At Risk Act. According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the St. Lawrence is home to an estimated 1,000 belugas. Because of the species’ protected status, the federal government has to protect its habitat.”

The news article doesn’t make it clear what the port would be needed for, but the Globe and Mail has previously reported that if the Energy East pipeline ended at Quebec City, it could be serviced by the Valero Energy Corp. refinery that can handle 230,000 barrels per day. That refinery also has a terminal at the Port of Quebec that can accommodate all-weather crude carriers, with a capacity of up to 1 million barrels of oil to ship up the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic basin and beyond.

Today’s news notes that the “(St. Lawrence Estuary) area is not yet a protected zone because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has yet to receive a decree from Fisheries Minister Gail Shea…, (but that) DFO biologist Hugues Bouchard says not having the degree doesn’t change anything (and that) the minister is expected to issue a decree protecting the habitat within months.”

Energy East would be a 4,400 kilometre pipeline stretching from Alberta to New Brunswick. It would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan. The company would convert 3,000 kilometres of an existing natural gas pipeline to Quebec and build an additional 1,400 kilometres of pipeline from there to New Brunswick. Its terminus there would be the Irving Refinery and its deep water port in Saint John.

Global News has reported, “Exporting crude to energy-hungry markets such as India – where landlocked Canadian crude would command a better price – is possible from Energy East, said (TransCanada CEO Russ) Girling, who confirmed international customers were among those who bid for space on the pipeline. It could also allow shipments to refineries along the U.S. eastern seaboard – an 800,000-barrel-per-day market – as well as in Europe.” Exporting from the deep water port in Saint John could mean 30 oil tankers a month travelling through the Bay of Fundy to markets in India, China and Europe. Communities on the Bay of Fundy shoreline include St. Andrews, Blacks Harbour, and Sackville in New Brunswick and Amherst, Truro, Wolfville and Digby in Nova Scotia.

It is expected that TransCanada will seek approval from the National Energy Board for the pipeline in early 2014. The portion of the pipeline to Quebec could be converted by 2017, the pipeline to New Brunswick completed and operational by 2018.

Further reading
Factsheet: TransCanada Energy East: Another Broken Pipeline Plan
Talking points: Countering Energy East Pipeline Spin
Council of Canadians opposes the Energy East pipeline