Group calls for federal protection of St. Lawrence Estuary
Proposed TransCanada plan to ship oil from estuary raises concerns for fragile ecosystem and whales
Jul 25, 2014 9:35 PM ET
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An environmental non-profit group is calling on the federal government to designate the St. Lawrence Estuary as a protected area.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says the designation is essential in order to protect the estuary — which stretches from Métis-sur-Mer to Baie-Saint-Paul — and the threatened and endangered species like beluga whales, blue whales and fin whales that inhabit its waters.
With TransCanada Corporation proposing to build a port in the estuary for shipping more than a million barrels of Alberta oil east, that means the designation is needed now more than ever, says CPAWS Quebec Director, Patrick Nadeau.
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“To build it in the first place there is some very heavy-footed operations that need to happen, then once the port is in place we’re expecting these huge supertankers and in case of a spill in that area it would have some irreversible and really dire consequences,” Nadeau told CBC News.
‘“Right now we’re only protecting 1.3 per cent of marine environment, which is quite pathetic… Countries such as China and Russia are doing better than us.”- CPAWS Quebec Director, Patrick Nadeau
However, Nadeau says Fisheries and Oceans Canada took a step in the opposite direction when it recently downgraded the estuary’s status on its website from a protected area project to an “area of interest.”
Nadeau said that’s a significant change.
“We’re a bit dumbfounded, to be honest, because this ministry for 15 years has been pushing the project, but now all of a sudden it’s a simple area of interest,” he said.
Canada currently has 10 Marine Protected Areas, which Nadeau said is only a fraction of the areas that need federal protection.
“Right now we’re only protecting 1.3 per cent of marine environment, which is quite pathetic,” he said. “Countries such as China and Russia are doing better than us,” he said.
A Marine Protected Area designation would not mean the end of the TransCanada project in the St. Lawrence Estuary, he said, but it would add an important measure for preserving its fragile ecosystem.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not return a request for an interview with CBC News.
What’s the latest on this issue ?
CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – TransCanada Corp, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, is scrapping plans for a Quebec oil-export terminal because of danger to whales in the St. Lawrence River, a move that is a victory for environmentalists and which delays the company’s C$12 billion ($9.5 billion) Energy East pipeline project.
The company said it now plans to complete the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East pipeline in 2020, instead of late 2018, as it rejigs regulatory filings.
TransCanada halted work on the Cacouna export terminal on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, near Riviere du Loup, Quebec, in December after experts said it would harm beluga whales in the river. They said the whales should be federally protected as an endangered species.
The company said it is now “evaluating other options” for a terminal in Quebec. Refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick would still be connected to the pipeline.
“This decision is the result of the recommended change in status of the Beluga whales to endangered and ongoing discussions we have had with communities and key stakeholders,” TransCanada Chief Executive Russ Girling said in a statement.
Cacouna was one of two export terminals planned for the 4,600-kilometer (2,858-mile) line, with the second to be built at the pipeline’s terminus in Saint John, New Brunswick.
The pipeline, which would take crude from the Alberta oil sands to Eastern Canada and abroad, has yet to face the kind of sustained opposition that has arisen in the United States to the Keystone XL project. Environmentalists, however, said the Cacouna decision could firm up resistance to the entire project.
“Yes it’s a win, but ultimately the entire project needs to be scrapped,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy and climate campaigner at the Council of Canadians
“I think we’re going to see more municipalities taking a stand on this, more landowners. I think (aboriginal group) opposition along the route is strong and growing.” Continued…
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