Do you like the idea of a new multibillion-dollar fossil fuel pipeline in Canada? You have three weeks to tell a federal environmental agency what you think.

On Tuesday — the day after the federal election — the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada invited the public, and specifically Indigenous groups, to provide feedback on a controversial 780-kilometre natural gas pipeline between northeastern Ontario and Quebec’s Saguenay region.

The Gazoduq pipeline is a key element of a $14-billion mega-project that intends to provide a permanent path for natural gas exploited in the West to be exported in the East.

The pipeline would carry 1.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Northern Ontario across the Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Mauricie regions of Quebec to a port in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, north of Quebec City.

At that point, it would be liquefied at a future facility called Énergie Saguenay, belonging to GNL Québec, and then loaded onto tankers that would sail down the Saguenay Fjord to the St. Lawrence.

The Saguenay Fjord between Baie-Sainte-Catherine and Tadoussac in 2017. Wikimedia Commons Photo: Pierre André

Gas is already pumped from the West through Central Canada along an existing pipeline owned by TC Energy (formerly TransCanada). Gazoduq would bring more of that gas almost all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Green party was the only one in the recent federal election campaign to openly campaign against the project. The pipeline path crosses several ridings that Bloc Québécois candidates won on Monday.

When Green Leader Elizabeth May asked Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet to state his position on the pipeline during the leaders' debate, he said he'd wait to see the results of an environmental review by a Quebec agency before weighing in.

The federal agency is accepting written comments in French or English until Nov. 12. The company plans to make a "final investment decision" by 2021, according to a summary of the project posted on its website on Oct. 10, and begin construction by early 2022.

A map by Groupe Conseil UDA and Gazoduq showing Indigenous communities near the proposed pipeline route. IAAC screenshot

Endangered belugas, Indigenous territory

The proponents claim the pipeline will generate economic growth, as it would hand Canadian natural gas producers expanded access to international markets and boost trade. The large investment is expected to generate jobs in Quebec and Ontario. They also claim the project is environmentally friendly, as they argue it would help displace more carbon-intensive fossil fuels like fuel oil, coal and diesel.

But producing and transporting gas has been shown to release a potent greenhouse gas, methane, when it leaks from equipment or is deliberately flared or vented off. Methane is very effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere, leading to climate change.

The project summary admits this, stating the use of gas-powered turbines for compressor stations required to keep the gas pumping along the pipeline will emit carbon pollution, and "fugitive emissions" — the industry term for leaks — could also emit pollution, as will "gas purges," or intentional venting. Carbon pollution is also expected during the project's construction phase with the use of heavy diesel equipment.

Scientists say the climate crisis will cause more extreme and more frequent floods and wildfires, damage coasts from sea-level rise, increase health-care costs from the spread of disease and push hundreds of millions of people into poverty.

Investors and economists say these consequences will eventually overshadow any economic benefits of fossil fuel infrastructure expansion. U.K. asset management company Schroders, for example, has estimated that a failure to act on climate will inflict irreversible economic damage many times the scale of the financial crisis.

An open letter from 25 economists and economic researchers last week argued that GNL Québec and Gazoduq's claims about job growth and the displacement of dirtier energy "are highly questionable."

The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whale. DFO Photo

Some environmental groups have also raised concerns that the pipeline will increase maritime traffic in the fjord, putting pressure on belugas and other marine wildlife like seals, Atlantic salmon, Greenland halibut and Arctic cod.

The St. Lawrence beluga in particular is an endangered species. In 2012, the belugas were estimated to number only 889. In June, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna emphasized the importance of protecting belugas when she exempted 44 per cent of the area of the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park from commercial whale-watching.

GNL Québec has said it is examining how Énergie Saguenay would limit harmful effects on endangered belugas.

The pipeline route crosses forests and ecologically sensitive wetlands as well as provincially protected areas. Plant and wildlife habitats along the pipeline route are diverse, and Gazoduq says it has taken species "likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable" into consideration.

The pipeline route also crosses "lands covered by treaties or subject to land claims by Indigenous groups," the summary states. It lists 25 "concerned Indigenous groups" close to the area Gazoduq has identified for the pipeline. Several are part of the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation.

The summary says Gazoduq has "adopted an approach to engaging with potentially affected Indigenous groups that is characterized by respect and collaboration."

It said the firm wants to "foster active Indigenous involvement in the project’s development and progress" and "maximize opportunities resulting in benefits for neighbouring Indigenous groups," among other objectives.

If replacing coal is their gig, why don't they replace coal in Canada, huh?

I am a native Albertan, now living in Quebec. I have also lived in Africa, the Caribbean and Belgium so have been exposed to various types of "fuel" or heating sources for a home, including gas. I did use bottled natural gas in both Ghana and Nigeria but, of course there were no options but wood at that time. It was appreciated but costly (too much for my African friends) and and supply was not easy and I could just imagine the system it required. If there was solar energy, it would have been a perfect alternative. Wood use was not sustainable as the local population's needs were far more than the natural forest could supply. OF COURSE THERE WAS NO THOUGHT FOR PLANTING TREES FOR FUEL OR OTHER USES. The population was too much for any self-sustaining option escept if solar power had been provided. I say this as an acceptance that at one point in time and at a far off place, the use of gas was appreciated. However, times have changed and with the GLOBAL climate crisis, sustainable and environmentally friendly options are NECESSARY. I strongly believe that the world MUST limit itself to using sustainable energy that does not pollute, if there is to be any hope for survival of the planet. Already this transition is late. However, if ALL new energy development was limited to sustainable, clean energy, there is still a chance. In Belgium, where I once returned to visit friends, the entire neighborhood had solar panels on the roofs. They were energy neutral homes, taking from the grid in winter but contributing to it in the summer. This is what must be done, NOT expanding the use of fossil fuels of any kind. We should be REDUCING the use of fossil fuels all over the world, not EXPANDING them nor simply replacing one fossil fuel type with another. The finances and effort put into expanding this pipeline should be used to expand clean energy. Let Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have a massive potential for solar, wind and bio energy, put all their efforts and resources to those alternative sources and to the export of their clean electricity instead of finding new ways to contribute to the climate change disaster that is increasingly affecting our planet. Imagine the reduction of costs and the contribution to the health of the province AND of the planet if every school, library, sports centre, hospital, gov't office, farm building and residence was supplied with clean energy options! There should be no expansion of the use of fossil fuels of any kind, anywhere. Please do NOT approve the gas pipeline.

I concur. Thank you Trevor for your elegant, heart felt, and rational comment. It is never going to be easy, but we must move away from creating new fossil fuel infrastructure, and burning fossil fuels.

Excellent points throughout. I grew up in a home heated first by wood, then by oil in winter. That was a long time ago. There were no renewables around. Both wood stoves and oil heaters then presented fire hazards ... but people did the best they could.
Please consider sending your comments to the energy board in Quebec, and to the Bloc Leader, who so far is saying he "trusts" the Quebec energy board, and wouldn't want the feds to override their decision. So ... no pipelines across Quebec (which apparently is what drove his party's vote) ... except maybe that one?

The pipeline east is more than a diversion of the TransCanada Expansion. The US does not want us shipping off our west coast into Indonesia and China, the Conservatives are obliging. the unspoken part of this deal is a power line running from PQ west.
PQ have a cap and trade deal set up with California worth billions. The power company that owns the two smoking coal burning plants is phasing them out, should be gone by 2025. This will leave PQ short of cash. Their Surplus hydro electricity supplies product purchased by the US. The US has weaned itself off Quebec Power by extending licencing of their Nuclear plants leaving PQ in an excess of power position. The block said it in the last French debate. Would be good if the rest of canada would enter into cap and trade deals with PQ or, buy their power.
The power companies which own these smokers also own the Mines in the Appellation Mountains which means more trouble for Trump in selling more coal.

Yes, Ontario (and New Brunswick) needs to purchase Hydro Quebec's hydro power. The federal government can facilitate this, if necessary, by helping finance the construction of the power lines.

Yes, hydro power is not carbon neutral and does destroy environment but Hydro Quebec would not have to build anymore dams in order to serve Ontario and New Brunswick requirements.

Ontario will be faced with an energy deficit when the Pickering Nuclear Generating Plant is shutdown. No amount of conservation, solar, or wind can replace this electricity so Ontario will have to burn more gas if it does not do a deal with Quebec.

Ontario purchases some, and many of us here want it to purchase enough to obviate any need to extend any more nuclear power "improvements." Nuclear is very expensive to build, and therefore to produce.
The government isn't even considering shutting Pickering down, despite many people petitioning, etc. for years and years.
We *had* a cap and trade deal with Cali as well. Ford killed it -- to save money, he claimed! I guess an illiterate politician has to rely on what his funders tell him.

And yet another pipeline to bring fracked ‘natural’ (not really natural) gas across our lands, wrecking habitats, destroying ecosystems already under stress, slashing down carbon-sinking tree cover, and threatening the future of our young people. Not to mention the devastation of the landscape and the toxins injected into the ground which are contaminating aquifers?

This proposed pipeline will continuously add many more years of increasing C emissions, way past 2030, even beyond 2050!
Pipelines are built to make a profit, thus the expectation that the life of a pipeline would be 50-60 years. (That would be 2070! …… game over!).

Canada is already on a path to a 3-4 degree increase in global average temperature. The Tar Sands is continuing to expand, not gradually declining as required by the science and the reality of the Climate Emergency. This, of course, has been declared but ignored by our ‘leaders’.

And to do this to export ’natural’ gas’????
Fracking companies in the US are going bankrupt as we speak due to high up front costs of fracking and the rapidly decreasing costs and increasing take-up of renewables by the public.

Our Carbon tax is way too low and a mojority of the Tar Sands production is not even covered. The ’cap’ that Trudeau and Notley negotiated was many megatons higher than even current levels of expansion, and we are nowhere near our global commitment made in Paris!

Not to mention the methane this pipeline would be carrying has a much higher GHG effect initially over other Fossil Fuels

And what about adhering to ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent.’? Any chance of that happening?

Sounds like a no-brainer to me …. That is if you can look past the ‘expected profits’ these companies still expect to generate., despite the costs to everyone and every living thing! The risk of economic chaos in the Canadian economy as the Tar Sands become completely non-viable is an increasingly realistic scenario.

How else can yon square the Major Fossils leaving the Tar Sands and the recent complete Divestment by Norway's largest Pension Fund? They' don't want to lose any more money?

Likely!

Just read a book by Paul Hellyer: Light At the End of the Tunnel. He mentions a scientist, Dr Michael Wolf who states, if I understand correctly, that "zero point and cold fusion energy" has been developed and to quote Paul Hellyer from his book on page 207: "In other words the means of eliminating the necessity of burning fossil fuel already exists." So even though I know nothing at all about science, I wonder that governments are not exploring these out of the box possibilities instead of always using fossil fuels that not only harm the animals we share out planet with but also seem to pollute the air, water and earth when accidents happen, as it seems to me that none of the methods for transporting these fuels are 100% safe proof!

Zero Point energy is a real concept in physics, but not something that can be harnessed.
Cold fusion is also a real concept but as yet there has been no demonstration that it can be done; it has immense potential, which is why many people tried to do it after the false claim by Pons and Fleischmann that they had succeeded in 1989. (Read the book “Bad Science” by Gary Taubes for an interesting account of this).