Canada’s ambition to become a global energy powerhouse has taken a recent blow, with major investor Warren Buffett opting to withdraw last month from an expected $2.9-billion investment in the $10-billion Énergie Saguenay natural gas pipeline in northern Quebec because of growing national protests over pipeline environmental impacts and effects of routes on indigenous tribes.

Developer Énergie Saguenay is now reassessing options for the pipeline about 130 miles north of Quebec City, having lost, at the “very last minute, a major potential private investor,” said Stéphanie Fortin, a company spokeswoman in an email. She declined to name the investor, but Canadian media have widely identified the legendary Omaha billionaire and investor and his firm Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett’s decision follows February protests sparked by Canada First Nations and environmental activists against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia that for a time effectively shut down the country’s rail system and sparked confrontations with police.

“Due to the confidential nature of ongoing discussions/engagements with any potential investor, GNL Québec is not disclosing or publicly confirming the identity of any potential investor,” Fortin said. But she said the pullout “decision was made because of recent challenges in the Canadian landscape for energy/infrastructure projects.” 

One potential source of opposition is the Wemotaci Atikamekw Council, which has signaled it has not signed off on the pipeline project, says the Globe and Mail. Quebec Premier François Legault stated that the project must gain “social acceptability” if it is to obtain the approval of provincial regulators. The project’s remaining investor owners say they are seeking other investors and remain committed to a financial investment decision by 2021.