LA MALBAIE, Quebec — The governor of Maine is lending his support to TransCanada’s proposed west-east pipeline, saying his state would welcome Alberta’s oil.
The transportation of crude was a key issue as the New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers held their annual meeting Monday in La Malbaie, Quebec, where Gov. Paul LePage expressed his support for the $12 billion development.
“I think it’s a great project,” said LePage, a Republican. “I think we need the oil and I think we need gas. Although I would prefer it to be natural gas, it is oil and it’s needed.”
LePage’s Vermont counterpart, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, said he was cool to the idea, saying he worries heavier use of tar sands oil from Canada will contribute to climate change. But he called the decision a Canadian issue.
If approved by regulators, TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East Pipeline project would ship up to 1.1 million barrels of crude per day from Alberta to Quebec in 2017. An extension would be built to ship oil to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, a year later.
LePage said he would prefer to see oil shipped by pipeline rather than rail cars, citing the train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The tracks used to transport western oil to New Brunswick pass through Maine.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward said he continues to try to convince Quebec Premier Pauline Marois of the merits of the development. He said a steering committee set up by both provinces is reviewing the project.
Marois said Monday she has concerns that would need to be resolved before it has her support.
“We have to make sure that we assess the situation as to where a pipeline might go and what impact that might have on a sensitive environmental area,” she said.
The premiers and governors also passed a resolution urging federal authorities in Canada and the U.S. to take measures to ensure the safety of railway transport of hazardous materials.
“This is very urgent because we lost people in this tragedy, we lost the center of a small city and we polluted a lake,” Marois said of the July 6 disaster, in which 47 people were killed or believed dead.
Irving Oil plans to construct a $300 million marine terminal in Saint John to expand shipping capacity.
Environmental groups have cautioned water supplies could be threatened by spills. First Nations groups have also expressed concerns about the project, saying they will not support it unless environmental protection and aboriginal and treaty rights are guaranteed.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said all methods of carrying oil must be carefully scrutinized, including pipelines.