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Plans to pipe oilsands crude to Quebec would barely benefit province: report

MONTREAL - A new report says proposals to pipe oilsands crude to Quebec refineries would only deliver negligible economic benefits to the province.

An economist who co-authored the study says job creation and spinoffs from several active pipeline-and-processing proposals would be insignificant to Quebec's overall economy.

At the same time, Brigid Rowan says a pipeline accident could cost lives and put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars — particularly if a spill takes place in an urban area like Toronto or Montreal.

The report was conducted by California-based consulting firm The Goodman Group Ltd. at the request of the Greenpeace and Equiterre environmental organizations.

The study examined possible economic advantages of the Energy East pipeline project by TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP), a plan by Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU) to enable its Montreal refinery to process thick oilsands bitumen and the Line 9 reversal by Enbridge (TSX:ENB).

Rowan argues that even if all of these projects moved forward, they would generate few long-term jobs in Quebec.

She also says while refiners would likely benefit from the lower-priced crude, the savings probably wouldn't be passed on to consumers at the pump.

Earlier this year, the National Energy Board approved Enbridge's controversial plan to reverse the flow and increase the capacity of Line 9, a project that would transport crude eastward to refineries in Ontario and Montreal.

The board said its decision would allow Enbridge to "react to market forces and provide benefits to Canadians, while at the same time implementing the project in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner."

The federal government welcomed the decision, saying the project would protect high-quality refining jobs in Quebec, open new markets for oil producers in Western Canada and replace more-expensive foreign crude.

Opponents of the Line 9 project often highlight Enbridge's 2010 spill in Michigan, where 20,000 barrels of crude leaked into the Kalamazoo River.

The Canadian Press

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