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The Pipeline Blues: Intro & Table of Contents

Welcome to the 25th Anniversary edition of the Pipeline Blues.

The Pipeline Blues is a case study of the intersection of pipeline siting, the environment, landowners, and bureaucracy: a portrait of ordinary people caught in a struggle against raw corporate power and bureaucratic indifference.

At the center of the story is the controversial TQM (TransQuebec & Maritime) PNGTS Extension natural gas pipeline project, and its passage through the Eastern Townships (Estrie) of southern Quebec.

The Pipeline Blues chronicles the journey of several dozen Eastern Townships landowners who banded together to challenge the status quo of the pipeline industry and its Canadian federal regulator, the National Energy Board, or NEB (since renamed Canadian Energy Regulator, or CER). Their perseverance precipitated an historic, first-ever NEB Detailed Route Hearing for a pipeline.

The PNGTS (Portland Natural Gas Transmission System) Extension is a pipeline that connects the TransCanada Pipeline (TCPL) system near Montreal, Quebec with the PNGTS pipeline in New Hampshire, USA. Its purpose is to transport natural gas from Western Canada to the Northeast United States.

The Quebec company TQM (TransQuebec & Maritime) made the project applications. It was heavily supported by a network of gas companies with inter-locking ownership. The principle promoter, and eventual operator was TCPL, TransCanada Pipeline (now TC Energy). As a Quebec company, TQM's application was crucial for Quebec government approval, but everyone knew it was really TCPL's project.

The project was particularly controversial in the scenic and touristic Eastern Townships (L'Estrie) region of Quebec. The arrogance and deceit shown by company PR flacks and project personnel during initial contacts with affected landowners fueled resistance, and public interest in the Quebec environmental hearings (BAPE) (archives below) was so high that the BAPE added several public audiences in the surrounding areas. Attendance was high, exchanges between the company and landowners were sometimes tumultuous, and feelings ran high.

Passing over the recommendations by a sympathetic BAPE, the provincial government nevertheless approved the un-modified project quickly and enthusiastically.

During National Energy Board (NEB) hearings exchanges between company reps and landowners again became heated. Very uncharacteristic of normally staid NEB hearings where landowners and landowner representation are rarely seen. Traditionally, NEB hearings are the scene of company lawyers dickering over spoils.

The NEB panel was anything but impartial, and its approval of the project over the objections of landowners and environmentalists was a foregone conclusion. That's where the story was, as always, expected to end. But forty landowners came together, organized, and demanded their right to a secondary route hearing: the first-ever for a natural gas pipeline project.

These archives then are the story of that unsuccessful, yet valiant and hard-fought resistance.

Not so surprisingly, soon after the project was completed and the pipeline went into operation, the East Hereford compressor station blew up, very seriously injuring a TQM employee and completely demolishing itself. TQM was left in disarray, and TCPL effectively took over the pipeline's operation.

Bruce Miller
Web master
January 2024

Table of Contents

PNGTS Extension

Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environment

Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environment Hearings

Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environment Briefs

Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environment Verbatims

The Environment

National Energy Board

National Energy Board Comprehensive Study Reports

Commentary on National Energy Board Comprehensive Study Report

National Energy Board Reasons for Decision - PNGTS Extension

National Energy Board Reasons for Decision - Detailed Route Hearing

What's New?

Press Articles on PNGTS Extension (Vintage)

Landowner Letters


Safety (PNGTS)

Pipeline Blues Press Section, 2000 - 2003)

Oil and Gas Industry Press Articles

Pipeline Safety in the US