Energy infrastructure company TransCanada Corp. will make a significant change to its C$12 billion Energy East pipeline project in response to concerns about Beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.

The company has confirmed that it will no longer build a marine terminal and associated tank terminals at Cacouna, and is reviewing potential alternative terminal options in the province. Refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick would continue to be connected directly to Energy East, TransCanada said.

"This decision is the result of the recommended change in status of the Beluga whales to endangered and ongoing discussions we have had with communities and key stakeholders," explained Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and CEO.

TransCanada halted work on the Cacouna export terminal in December after a Canadian wildlife organization said that the beluga whales in the river should be federally protected as an endangered species.

Altering the plans will push the expected in-service date of the 1.1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) project to 2020. The pipeline was previously anticipated to start operating in late 2018.

TransCanada also said that ongoing discussions with Energy East stakeholders had highlighted concerns over emergency response plans, which are developed with local agencies along the pipeline route. As a result, the company will develop and submit these plans earlier in the regulatory process.

Another TransCanada project, Keystone XL, has been awaiting clearance for more than six years as U.S. regulators weigh up its environmental impact.