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A beluga whale and calf. Image courtesy of iwona_kellie/Flickr.

Construction of TransCanada’s $11 billion East Energy pipeline hit another hurdle this month as concerns mount over the threat posed by the project to  beluga whales.

Exploratory and drilling work for a Quebec export terminal connected to the project was delayed last month after environmentalist groups successfully petitioned for an injunction to stop work on the facility.

A Quebec Superior Court judge placed the injunction on Calgary-based TransCanada after environmental groups argued the project did not receive enough scrutiny before being approved, the Global Mail said.

The 1.1 million barrel per day oil pipeline is set to run through the St. Lawrence River that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.

The belugas gather in the river near Cacouna, Quebec to care for their newborns.

The injunction was lifted on October 15 and the company submitted a revised plan that included noise control and other measures to protect the whales.

However, Quebec’s environmental ministry has not approved the revised plans.

The company’s current work permit will expire at the end of November.

TransCanada is expected to file for federal regulatory approval at the end of the month.

The project includes the conversion of an existing natural gas pipeline to oil, the construction of new lines in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to link up with the converted pipe and the construction of crude export facilities.

The pipeline was initially projected to be in service by late 2017 for deliveries in Quebec and 2018 for deliveries to New Brunswick.

TransCanada has not commented on whether the delays will impact its construction or delivery timetables.