[Pipelines] The problem with Quebec’s injunction – by Jen Gerson (National Post – March 7, 2016)


Write about pipeline politics for long enough and it’s easy to come to dislike everybody. Especially among those who dislike oil and the oilsands on principle, TransCanada, which wants to build a pipeline from Alberta to Saint John, N.B., makes an easy villain.

According to the government of Quebec, the company was asked to submit its plans for the pipeline, dubbed Energy East. Since it failed to do so, according to Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel, the province was obliged to threaten an injunction to force the company to follow its environmental laws.

TransCanada said it was totally taken aback by the threat. Especially considering the company hasn’t even submitted the paperwork for Energy East to the National Energy Board yet. A spokesman for the company told The Canadian Press that it thought the issue had been resolved back in early 2015, with both sides agreeing to an alternative process. In any case, TransCanada has agreed to participate in Quebec’s review so the whole matter really should be dropped.

Except for a few lingering points.

The first is that as pipeline regulation is explicitly a matter of federal jurisdiction, there actually is a question about whether TransCanada has a legal obligation to participate in a parallel provincial review process that is unlikely to have any bearing on whether or not Energy East is actually approved.

Further, given Quebec’s not-so-subtle hostility toward pipelines in general and the oilsands in particular, it’s fair to ask whether TransCanada should bother. All the provincial environmental laws in the world won’t overcome a simple matter of jurisdictional hierarchy. Quebec has no veto over Energy East. It just doesn’t.

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