Introduction to PNGTS Extension Case Study

This is a tale of lies, deceipt, and betrayal. It's a story of what happens when a big company like TransCanada and a powerful energy industry used to having their own way decide to help themselves to your property.

It happened to us and it could happen to you.

While your life proceeds along its merry way, a pipeling company could be laying plans to take your land and expose your family to constant danger. Long before landowners get wind of a project, an armada of mercenary consultants and public relations flaks are charged with greasing the way with national, provincial, and local governments, environmental agencies, constituency organizations such as the Quebec UPA (farmer's union), and most of all, regulators like the Canadian National Energy Board, which is little more than a revolving door chocked full of industry personelle.

In this case, TransCanada Corporation (TransCanada), using its surrogate, Trans Quebec & Maritimes Pipeline Inc. (TQM), backed by a consortium of engineering, consulting, and public relations firms, pushed a high-pressure, natural gas pipeline through one of the most scenic parts of the Eastern Townships, Quebec.

The project, known as the PNGTS Extension (Portland Natural Gas Transmission Line Extension project (PNGTS Extension) connects TransCanada facilities in Lachenaie, Quebec to East Herford, Quebec and the US/Canadian border.

There, on the Quebec/New Hampshire border, the PNGTS Extension connects to the Portland Natural Gas Transmission Line (PNGTS), for subsequent distribution of natural gas in the US Northeast and connection with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline System at Dracut, MA.

The project affected some 900 landowners and 40 municipalities along it's 220km route. In the Eastern Townships the route went primarily through prime agricultural land and forest, some of which was designated as old-growth and delicate ecosystems on provincial maps.

The Eastern Townships is a touristic region chocked full of rivers, lakes, and scenic countryside. Here, opposition to the project was highest, especially between South Stukely and East Hereford.

In South Stukely many landowners already had two or more existing Hydro Quebec and Metropolitain Gaz servitudes on their land. In our municipality, scenic Ste-Catherine de Hatley, where about a dozen landowners were affected, mostly farmers and woodlot owners, opposition was unanamous.

In addition to esthetic concerns, residents of isolated East Hereford had serious concerns about pipeline safety and the diffulty of emergency response in their region. (Concerns that were well-founded, as a short time after the line was put into operation the TQM compression station in East Hereford was decimated by a tremendous explosion).

In our local area, two routes were 'studied' by the promoters: one following a provincial highway (Autoroute 55), and another cross-country "western" route through woodlots and fields.

Woodlot owners were opposed to the western route because it threatened mature maple stands. Farmers were cool towards the pipeline despite a letter from the UPA urging them to "welcome the negociators and be well paid". Municipal and MRC representatives expressed a preference for the pipeline follow Autoroute 55.

The promoter's application stated that they preferred the Western route over following the Autoroute by a "marge faible" (narrow margin). However, it soon became apparent from their intransigent and uncompromising posture that the alternate route 'study' was just for show.

And so it was that, despite the promoter's campaign of misinformation and deceipt designed to isolate landowners from each other, we banded together to form a coalition with the objectives to share information and resources and present a unified opposition.

Certainly the promotors expected a good deal of opposition from a region like the Eastern Townships, but I don't think they anticipated being confronted by organized opposition, much less that opposition among the population at large would be such that they would be required to to go to a Secondary Route Hearing, the first in the history of the National Energy Board.

In the end, of course, the promoters prevailed. The National Energy Board rejected every single landover request during the Secondary Route Hearings.

TQM and all their associates told landowners that "The pipeline will follow the route we choose and there's nothing you can do about it."

We didn't believe them, but they were right.

That's the Pipeline Blues.

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