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Ontario, Quebec discuss Energy East pipeline strategy

11/21/2014 12:59 EST | Updated 01/21/2015 05:59 EST
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The premiers of Ontario and Quebec were to talk about TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline in Toronto today, a day after Quebec issued a list of seven conditions that the pipeline must meet.

Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne and Quebec’s Phillippe Couillard, both Liberals, plan a joint statement on the $12 billion project.

TransCanada wants to convert an existing natural gas pipeline to carry Alberta oil through Ontario and east through to a port in Quebec.

Among the biggest concerns for both provinces are protection against an oil spill from the 40-year-old pipeline and a guarantee that the natural gas supply will not become tight and push prices higher for consumers.

Ontario is expected to soon present its own list of criteria for approving the pipeline, says Keith Stewart — an Ontario- based climate campaigner with Greenpeace.

“Ontario and Quebec in particular have been saying that any kind of a National Energy strategy has to include climate change and that is something the federal government just doesn't want to hear,” he said.

Much of the work of addressing climate change has fallen to the provinces, because of the absence of a national strategy.

Quebec's environment minister David Heurtel waded into the volatile politics of pipelines with a letter to TransCanada made public yesterday that set seven conditions, including a look at the project by Quebec’s environmental review board.

 Like B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who wants benefits for her province from the Northern Gateway pipeline, Heurtel also asked for an assurance the project will generate economic benefits for all of Quebec.

How can one sector of the country do what is in the best interest of the country,” Heurtel said.

Calgary energy analyst Bill Gwozd says these kind of demands are not reasonable for a business project.

“You can take it to the extreme, and in Canada we are supposed to be this free trade country,” he told CBC. "Between provinces we don't have this situation where each province is supposed to benefit."

Quebec’s other conditions:

- A thorough emergency plan, including a compensation fund in case of a spill.

- Consultation with nearby communities on potential social impacts.

- Respect for the highest technical standards, assuring public safety and environmental protection.

- Involvement of First Nations to satisfy their concerns.

- No impact no Quebec’s natural gas supply.

Natural gas utilities in Ontario and Quebec have asked the National Energy Board to demand a new review of gas needs from TransCanada.

They fear their customers will be vulnerable to winter shortages and price spikes because of the elimination of the natural gas pipeline.

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