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WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - Quebec will announce within weeks that it will launch its own public review of a proposed pipeline that would deliver crude oil from western Canada to eastern markets, its environment minister said Thursday.
Yves-Francois Blanchet told Reuters in an interview that the review would be done simultaneously to a review by Canada's National Energy Board, in order to give local groups a chance to learn more about the project.
Energy company Enbridge Inc. proposed reversing a section of the existing Line 9 pipeline that connects Ontario and Quebec in order to deliver oil from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to eastern markets.
A revamped Line 9 would transport up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), and transport western Canadian crude eastward rather than transporting more expensive Brent crude oil from the North Sea, West Africa and the Middle East in a westbound direction.
But Blanchet said Quebec, which is led by a pro-separatist government, needs to have its say over a project being pushed by Alberta and Ottawa.
"It's not whether or not we want oil from the oil sands. That is not our mandate. As a minister of a government that promotes sovereignty, I do not intend to comment on internal Canadian affairs or energy policy," he said.
Blanchet said Quebec's own review process would allow local stakeholders to make recommendations about how to make the pipeline safe, or if that is even possible.
Quebec will invite experts, environmental and citizen groups, economic associations, oil companies and municipalities to participate.
Enbridge said it held a successful "open season" last year, and confirmed that there was significant customer interest in the project.
Enbridge and other pipeline proponents have said that the Line 9 reversal would give a boost to Quebec's refineries and open the way for exports. The province has seen five refineries shut down over the past 30 years.
Blanchet said there has not been a public outcry against the project so far but added the public has a right to ask questions.
"There is not such a strong opposition so far," he said. "My feeling is that the people want to know more."
Blanchet was in Washington this week to meet with state and State Department officials to discuss a future link between Quebec's carbon market and California's, among other issues.
He said Quebec, after linking to California's cap-and-trade system next January, will consider beefing up its current target to slash its greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, the toughest in Canada, to 25 percent.
Quebec currently gets 97 percent of its electricity from emissions-free hydroelectric power.
He said Ottawa and Alberta were laggards on climate change and should "take on more efforts."
Blanchet acknowledged that by potentially approving the pipeline and increasing its oil production, Quebec's policies may be viewed as hypocritical.
"I think the only logical thing to do is to ...control the parameters of our own exploration, production and consumption, which is the most ecologicial way to do things," he said.