The pipeline giant TransCanada has announced it is scrapping its plan for an oil export terminal on the St. Lawrence River in Cacouna, Québec, in turn delaying the completion of the Energy East tar sands pipeline for at least two years.

Explaining its decision, the corporation cited concerns over the terminal’s impact on Beluga whales, including a scientific report last December that recommended they be declared an endangered species with full protection of their habitat.

“The issue of the export terminal demonstrates how this project can not withstand serious scrutiny. Ultimately, the more we hear about the details of the project, the less people support it.”
—Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada

“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,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer. “We have listened and our decision reflects that.”

In response to the news, environmentalists celebrated a partial victory.

“It’s official. By abandoning its tanker terminal plans for Cacouna, Quebec, TransCanada has finally admitted Energy East carries major risks for Canada,” said Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager for Environmental Defence Canada. “This is a major victory for the protection of endangered species, communities and the environment.” 

But Scott, representing a concern shared by others, said TransCanada should do more than simply abandon one terminal. “If TransCanada is serious about listening,” he said, “it should move immediately to cancel the Energy East project.”

This week’s development underscores problems with the entire $12 billion pipeline proposal, added Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaign.