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Cacouna port dead: What does this mean for opposition to Energy East?

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As anticipated, TransCanada has pulled the plug on the controversial Cacouna port that really should never have seen the light of day. 

Massive export port beside (endangered) beluga whale habitat, with massive tankers plying the St. Lawrence? Nope.

Taking a page out of their leaked Edelman PR strategy (the two have now parted ways), TransCanada's response in their blog says their decision was not based on some so-called "well funded" opposition groups, "want[ing] to deny Canadians the right to benefit from a reliable domestic supply of energy that ensures Canadians enjoy the quality of life they've come to expect in this country every day."

First of all, I always chuckle when TransCanada suggests opposition is well funded. This is rich coming from the corporation funnelling millions into a PR strategy trolling Google searches and targeting local media along the pipeline path with pro-pipeline spin. 

The reality is opposition to the Cacouna port, and the project in Quebec is diverse and growing. 

Thousands were mobilized to march several times in Cacouna against the port. Dozens of municipalities are calling for a review or rejecting the project. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois' crowd funding effort for a local grassroots group opposing the pipeline hit over $300,000 in a matter of days. A successful injunction against the port driven by a number of Quebec environmental groups. There was a federal NDP motion against the port. Even Quebec and Albertan Premiers have said the port needs to be away from belugas. And clearly Quebec public opinion clearly not onside with the project.    

So what does this mean?

With TransCanada finally confirming the death of the Cacouna port comes big news -- a two-year delay in the pipeline project.

"The result of this alteration to the project scope and further refinement of the project schedule is expected to result in an in service date of 2020."

This means that TransCanada won't be filing additional information relating to these changes to the National Energy Board (NEB) until the final quarter of 2015.

It is hard to fathom how the NEB could deem TransCanada's application as complete and proceed with the tight timeline imposed by Harper government omnibus changes.

For example, how can people and organizations that applied to intervene in Quebec be expected to participate in public hearings anticipated for mid-year if information on the pipeline route in their province isn't tabled?

NEB should send Energy East back to the drawing board

The reasons are abundantly clear. Adding to an incomplete application, Ontario First Nation leaders have already called for a halt to the process until they can be properly consulted. Thousands have told the NEB the process is insufficient without including the upstream climate pollution impacts of filling the pipeline.

All eyes on Red Head, Saint John

One thing is sure, the spotlight is going to shift to New Brunswick, home to the only massive export port currently on the books for the Energy East project.

Here TransCanada would work with Irving in a $300-million partnership that would see tankers carrying 2.2 million barrels of oil ply the waters of the Bay of Fundy, from Saint John, along the coast of Nova Scotia, towards refineries in Houston, the Gulf of Mexico, Europe and possibly India and China.

The Bay of Fundy is a summer home for the North Atlantic right whale, among the most endangered whales in the world. The bay also provides an important "nursery" where the calves are raised. The top threats faced by right whales include ship strikes, low-frequency ship noise (that can cause them chronic physiological stress) and climate change which can diminish the availability of food in the oceans for them. About a dozen years ago Irving Oil rerouted their shipping lanes to reduce the risk of collision, but increased shipping and associated factors clearly pose risks.

And we know that there is growing opposition to Energy East in the Red Head community of Saint John, the frontline community where the pipeline would meet the ocean.

The Red Head Anthony's Cove Preservation Association explains, "Our association is dedicated to preserving the nature and quality of life for all current and future residents of Red Head, and to protecting our air, land, and the Bay of Fundy in solidarity with all other groups who oppose the Energy East pipeline."

In response, they are organizing a march to "the end of the line" on May 30 starting at 1 p.m. They state, "We hope this walk will be huge and show that we oppose the Energy East pipeline. We want 'Big Oil' to realize that there are better options for Canada than tar sands and destroying our oceans, our forests, our air, and our quality of life. We already have pipelines and do not want any more. This is an open invitation to all groups who are interested in seeing and saving the beautiful area that is 'the end of the line' for Energy East."

The Council of Canadians is supporting this mobilization.

Fredericton-based Council of Canadians Energy East New Brunswick campaigner Mark D'Arcy highlights, "Red Head, New Brunswick is ground zero for the proposed Energy East pipeline. This community lies just east of Saint John and boasts a series of beautiful, scallop-shaped coves along the Bay of Fundy. This pristine backdrop is the final destination for the 4,400-km export pipeline from Alberta tar sands, where it will be delivered to a proposed 18-tank storage facility ('tank farm'), and a marine terminal for oil supertankers."

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