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Oil terminal project proposed for St Lawrence beluga habitat halted


Montreal -   The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement (CQDE), Nature Québec, the David Suzuki Foundation and France Dionne and Pierre Béland, applicants under the injunction that halted TransCanada's drilling at Cacouna, are claiming victory following the expiry on November 30 of the certificate of authorization they had challenged before the courts. Despite the repeated requests it filed up until last week, TransCanada Pipeline's application for an extension of its certificate of authorization to December 31 was rejected by Quebec. In view of these developments, the groups and citizens are withdrawing their motion for permanent injunction, which was to go forward in early 2015.

"Today we celebrate a complete victory", stated Christian Simard, Executive Director of Nature Québec. "TransCanada has not been able to resume drilling in beluga habitat since the injunction obtained on September 23. Despite its repeated attempts, [the company] has been handed a flat refusal by Quebec", he added. For Michel Bélanger, the lawyer who argued the case, "the ultimate winner is science, which some have tried to hush up and which reminds us once again that the price one pays for ignoring it can go as far as the extinction of a species."

The environmental groups and citizenswho launched the court action point out that TransCanada was unable to provide a satisfactory plan to the Government of Quebec after noise measurements taken during the two series of exploratory drilling  in September revealed that the maximum noise threshold had been exceeded by five times. According to Pierre Béland, "in 32 years of research and efforts to conserve belugas, this project was the most serious threat to the species."

This victory comes at the very moment when the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) changed the beluga's designation from threatened to endangered. "COSEWIC's decision confirms that we were right to be alarmed by the disturbance caused by TransCanada's drilling at Cacouna", said Karel Mayrand, Director General of the David Suzuki Foundation's Quebec office. Acoustic disturbance and industrial development are among the causes cited by COSEWIC for the decline of the species. "The reclassification of the beluga leaves no further room for compromise. TransCanada must abandon its oil terminal project", concluded Mr Mayrand.

The groups and citizens that instituted the legal proceedings are now asking the Ministre du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques not to authorize any more drilling in the belugas' habitat.

According to Patrick Nadeau, CPAWS - Quebec Chapter Executive Director, "there is no longer any scientific basis for the claim that an oil terminal can be built at Cacouna without causing irreparable harm to the St Lawrence belugas. We must now move forward quickly to create a marine protected area, as recommended by Fisheries and Oceans Canada for over 15 years."

For Karine Peloffy, Executice Director of the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement: "This is a major victory for environmental justice in Quebec. Had we not gone to court, serious harm would have been caused to an endangered species and to the right of Quebecers to live in a healthful environment that is respectful of biodiversity. The CQDE will continue to maintain constant vigilance to ensure strict and effective enforcement of the laws."

It should be noted that judicial remedy had been sought by the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE), the David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Québec, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), and citizens France Dionne and Pierre Béland. Although they were not party to the litigation, World Wildlife Fund Canada, the Rivers Foundation and Greenpeace supported the initiative.

For more information, please contact:

Patrick Nadeau, CPAWS Quebec: 514-278-7627, ext. 226