TORONTO – Ontario has joined with Quebec to set out the conditions, including the prickly issue of greenhouse gas emissions, TransCanada Corp. must comply with to secure a positive response from the provinces regarding its Energy East project.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard signed four agreements in Toronto Friday to put Canada’s two biggest provinces on the same page regarding a number of issues, including climate change.
The two governments signed four memorandum of understandings including carbon pricing and to develop solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy projects. Ms. Wynne said Ontario had not reached a decision on a carbon tax.
The decision to work together on pipeline projects puts added pressure on Energy East, which runs from Alberta, through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to an export terminal in New Brunswick.
“We are basically signing off on seven principles,” Ms. Wynne told reporters. “We are taking about compliance with the highest available technical standards… having contingency plans and emergency response programs in place, making sure that proponents and governments fulfill their duty to consult with First Nations and aboriginal people; that we take into account the contribution of… greenhouse gas emissions and further issues like the interest of natural gas consumers.”
The premiers believe their conditions regarding the Energy East project are reasonable.
The premiers’ GHG demands appear at odds with the mandate of the National Energy Board, which does not consider emissions as part of its approval process. Peter Watson, head of the federal regulator told an audience in Calgary Friday that it’s not the board’s job to look at a project’s enabling role in oil sands growth and the rising carbon dioxide emissions associated with the project.
TransCanada filed a 30,000-page application for the $12-billion project with the NEB last month. But Quebec’s Environment Minister, David Heurtel, said the province is planning its own environmental assessment on the Quebec portion of the project and must fist “receive the proper documentation” from TransCanada.
“TransCanada has submitted to Quebec’s environment ministry … but we still need more documents before we can get everything under way.”
TransCanada said it was studying the conditions set out by the two provinces and looks “forward to working with both governments in the appropriate manner to make the project successful.”
While the two provinces have agreed to work together on the Energy East file, Ontario is not planning its own environmental assessment report on the project, Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, said in an interview.
“The problem with environmental assessment is that it will take three or four years, and the National Energy Board will make its decision before the environmental assessment can be completed,” Mr. Chiarelli said.
The province is focusing on its own “consultations and investigations” regarding the project, the minister said without elaborating or providing a timeline.
Mr. Chiarelli acknowledged the province can participate only as an intervenor and may not be able to force the issue if the pipeline is approved by NEB, but does not meet the province’s standards.
“The only legal authority Quebec and Ontario have is to ask the National Energy Board to make conditions either not to approve… or if they are going to approve it, then approve it with conditions, as we saw in the last decision that was made out west,” the minister said, referring to Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway pipeline that was approved with 209 conditions.
Asked whether the province was gravitating towards or against the project, the minister said it was “not an automatic ‘no’.”
“When you consider the needs of Ontario and Quebec, we need gas, we need oil, and it is either going to go by train or by pipe.”