MONTREAL – Quebec’s environment minister is expressing reservations about private-sector plans to import crude from Alberta’s oil sands to Montreal refineries, insisting Quebec will retain sovereignty over its land no matter what is decided by federal regulators.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City Wednesday, Daniel Breton would not say outright if his Parti Québécois minority government opposes plans by Enbridge Inc. and TransCanada Corp. to ship Alberta oil eastward to Montreal. Rather, he attempted to flex a little muscle by saying nothing will move forward without Quebec’s blessing.
“There are some environmental risks with oil,” said Mr. Breton, a former environmental activist who helped found Quebec’s Parti Vert. “Given what happened [on the Kalamazoo River] in Michigan, we can’t take this lightly…. This is a question of protecting the environment that’s on our territory.”
A pipeline belonging to Calgary-based Enbridge ruptured at that location in 2010 in a spill the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later estimated at larger than one million U.S. gallons. Cleanup costs have topped US$585-million.
Enbridge is planning a significant expansion of its pipelines that carry crude from the oil sands and the Bakken shale oil field to refineries in central Canada and the U.S. Midwest. The plan, called Eastern Access, involves reversing and maybe expanding a 240,000 barrel-per-day pipeline now carrying imported oil from Montreal to Sarnia, Ont.
The National Energy Board has approved Step 1 of the proposal, involving a section between Sarnia and North Westover, Ont. Enbridge hasn’t yet submitted Step 2, which involves the reversal of the 900-kilometre pipeline section to Montreal, for federal review but has done open houses along the right of way in Ontario and Quebec.
It’s highly likely the energy board will request public hearings on the project before making a decision, said Enbridge spokesman Graham White. Mr. Breton, meanwhile, insisted Quebec consultations would take place. He did not specify what body would oversee that process.
“I do understand that there is this perception” in Quebec of Alberta oil as negative, Mr. White said. “But to me it seems to be much more beneficial for us to have that energy security, which is, by the way, why that line was originally built. It was to provide domestic energy security for Canada.”
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