Introduction to the PNGTS Extension Case Study
Ayer's Cliff, Quebec
This is the story of what happens when a powerful industry used to having it's own way decides to use a part of mine, or yours, or anyone's yard, field, or woodlot for their own purposes.
It is a timeless story, a tale of lies, deceipt, and betrayal. It could happen to anyone. It could even happen to you.
In the case presented, a natural gas pipeline company, TransQuebec & Maritimes Pipelines (TQM), backed up by a virtual consortium of energy companies and their associates, is working its way toward approval for and construction of its PNGTS Extension project.
As proposed, TQM's PNGTS Extension project would affect around 900 landowners and 40 municipalities along it's 220km route from Lachenaie, Quebec Canada to East Herford on the New Hampshire border. The stated purpose of the pipeline is to deliver natural gas to the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System. PNGTS will construct the pipeline from the New Hampshire border to Portland, Maine for subsequent distribution of natural gas in the northeastern United States.
Along certain portions of the route, including three municipalities from South Stukely to Ayer's Cliff, opposition at all levels has been steadily growing. In South Stukely there are many landowners like Gary Richards who already have two or more existing Hydro Quebec and Metropolitain Gaz servitudes on their land.
Locally, the pipeline's passage through our small municipality (Ste- Catherine de Hatley) would directly affect about a dozen landowners, mostly farmers and woodlot owners. In spite of roadblocks set up by the involved companies and their bevy of consultants, negotiators, and public relations people, the landowners in my area have managed to find each other and to meet several times to discuss the project's impact and how we should respond to it. Although we are a diverse group, the pipeline has enabled us to focus on a common objective and our consensus has been built upon the democratic expression of our opinions and ideas.
TQM studied two routes in our area: one along Autoroute 55, and another "western" route which follows municipal boundries and former Hydro servitudes cross-country through woodlots and fields. While TQM prefers the latter route, municipal and MRC representatives have expressed a strong preference (shared by the Ste-Catherine landowners) to have the pipeline follow Autoroute 55.
Woodlot owners in our area are opposed to the proposed western route because it threatens mature maple stands. In spite of an initial UPA letter urging them to "welcome the negociators and be well paid", farmers, whose fields generally suffer less impact, are also very cool towards the proposed route.
The affected area includes hillsides around the southern tip of Lake Massawippi, and there are additional concerns about more widespread effects of the project upon the scenic aesthetics of the touristic area around Ayer's Cliff and the preservation of an important and delicate ecosystem in the area.
Although TQM's application states that they chose their preferred western route by a narrow margin ("un marge faible") over that of the autoroute, they are uncompromising in sticking to their choice and brushing aside the concerns of landowners and local and regional elected representatives.