Ecological resistance in Bas-Saint-Laurent | The duty

Every Tuesday, The duty offers a space to the creators of a periodical. This week, we offer you a text published in the magazine To port!issue 96, summer 2023.

Lower Laurentian activists are not at their first rodeo: the oil industry has long been eyeing its banks and valleys to pour or spread bitumen. How did a handful of environmental activists bring an industry giant to its knees?

At the beginning of the 1980s, TransCanada already had in its plans the idea of ​​using the deep-water seaport of Gros-Cacouna as an LNG port. This project even managed to obtain approval from the BAPE at the time, but ultimately fell through. The project, which included gas exploitation in the far north of the Arctic, was considered too technically and financially risky to move forward. In 2005, TransCanada returned to Cacouna with Petro-Canada as a partner, and this time proposed to import liquefied Russian gas and transport it to the United States by pipeline.

The local population is divided: on the one hand, there was concern about security and the protection of the territory; on the other, we were attracted by the promises of an economic El Dorado that the company held out. The project named at the time Énergie Cacouna will also receive the OK from the BAPE. The perseverance of the residents of Cacouna who opposed TransCanada, however, made it possible to avoid the worst by delaying the start of construction of the LNG terminal. This delay meant that at the beginning of 2008, Gazprom withdrew its stake in Énergie Cacouna as a natural gas supplier, thus dashing the hopes of the promoters. The discovery of shale gas in the United States will be the prelude to a gigantic gas boom, which will make the import of natural gas from Russia obsolete.

In 2013, when TransCanada announced its return to Cacouna, this time to build an oil port dedicated to the export of tar sands, the local population was taken hostage for a third time. Then begins one of the most beautiful environmental struggles in the history of Quebec, which will eventually make these cowboys from the West who came to try to unroll their bitumen pipes to export their dirty oil through Cacouna fold.

“Don’t run into us”

In 2013, a group from Kamouraska was already campaigning against the Énergie-Est project and its $14 billion oil pipeline project. This group will become the instigator of the “Coule pas chez nous” movement, which will soon take hold in Témiscouata and all along the route of the oil pipeline crossing Quebec. On May 10, 2014, during the launch of the “Coule pas chez nous” campaign in Cacouna, the People’s March for Mother Earth was simultaneously launched. This major awareness walk brings together more than a hundred walkers, who, starting from Cacouna, will end their 700 km journey 34 days later in Kanesatake. This march will help strengthen the anti-pipeline movement and network activists from across Quebec.

In Rivière-du-Loup, Pétroliques Anonymes are also on the lookout, as are “Prosperity without oil” and “No to an oil spill in the Saint-Laurent”, two groups very active in Rimouski. A group from Trois-Pistoles financed by Greenpeace is organizing a citizen watch, which will carry out surveillance by sea kayak and from the Gros-Cacouna mountain to observe the seismic survey work in the beluga nursery. This monitoring, with the legal assistance of the Quebec Environmental Law Center, will make it possible to detect several violations of TransCanada’s environmental authorization certificate which, through its spokesperson Philippe Canon, prided itself on respecting the most high standards of environmental safety.

These groups from Bas-Saint-Laurent will seek the support of numerous national environmental organizations and will be at the head of the two demonstrations of April and October 2014, the latter putting a nail in the coffin of the Cacouna oil port project. A few months later, the entire Energy East project fell, putting an end to this saga once and for all.

Always more bitumen

As we can see, the Bas-Saint-Laurent region is teeming with citizen groups mobilized to protect the territory. In 2023, the main threat to Bas-Saint-Laurent comes from the Rimouski Chamber of Commerce which wants to build a highway between Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and the village of Bic. This highway would disfigure and destroy the majestic Trois-Pistoles River valley with the construction of a gigantic bridge estimated at nearly $300 million. In addition to the magnificent Lower Laurentian landscape, the project would destroy agricultural land, numerous maple groves, wetlands and kilometers of forest, all for a total cost of nearly $1.7 billion.

The mobilization against this project is being organized and as in the past, the bitumen promoters will encounter fierce resistance on their path, with strong militant experience which should make them think twice before embarking on this bituminous madness!

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