Quebec rejects $14-billion natural gas project in Saguenay over environmental issues

MONTREAL — A $14-billion project that would have seen natural gas from Western Canada exported to Europe and Asia through Quebec has been rejected by the Quebec government.

Environment Minister Benoit Charette told reporters in Saguenay — the region where a natural gas plant would have been built — that the provincial government is not convinced the project would lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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"The promoter has not succeeded in demonstrating this, on the contrary," he said, adding that the government is worried it would discourage natural gas buyers in Europe and Asia from moving to cleaner energy sources.

"This is a project that has more disadvantages than advantages," Charette said.

GNL Québec had proposed building a plant in Port Saguenay, Que., about 220 kilometres north of Quebec City, to liquefy natural gas from Western Canada. The project would have also required the construction of a 780-kilometre pipeline to connect the plant to existing natural gas pipelines in Ontario.

The project had initially been greeted positively by the Coalition Avenir Québec government. Charette said he was predisposed to support the project, but in the end it didn't meet the required environmental conditions.

The company said it was disappointed and surprised by the decision.

"Our board of directors will evaluate the next steps to deal with this difficult decision that will have an impact on our employees, our investors and our stakeholders," GNL spokesman Louis-Martin Leclerc said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

GNL had said the plant would be carbon neutral and would encourage an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, because natural gas would replace dirtier fuels such as coal and oil. Quebec's environmental review board, however, concluded in March the estimated reductions were unlikely to occur.

A coalition of environmental groups, including Équiterre, the David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace, said the decision was a victory for activists who had opposed the project.

"The Quebec government's announcement of the rejection of the GNL Québec project demonstrates that there is no future for fossil fuel projects," the groups said in a statement. Several Indigenous communities had also opposed the project.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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