Landowner Commentary on

NEB Comprehensive Study Report: TQM PNGTS Extension

Bruce Miller
Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, QC


My name is Bruce Miller and I have been a landowner in Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, QC since 1968. I have resided on Bunker Hill in Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley since 1972. As a landowner and resident who is being affected by TransQuébec & Maritimes Pipeline's (TQM) proposed PNGTS Extension natural gas pipeline project, and as a member in good standing of the Coalition of Landowners Concerned by a Pipeline, I have attended all of the public information meetings and participated in all of the hearings concerning this project since January of 1997. I have submitted briefs on the project to the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE), to the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ), and to the National Energy Board (NEB). For the past year I have also maintained a www site concerning the TQM project.

Like the landowners, the BAPE and its staff were newcomers to dealing with pipeline companies. Nevertheless, the commission chaired by M. Camille Genest is the only government organization to date which conducted itself with integrity and professionalism. They conducted a fair and objective set of hearings and they produced a professional quality report whose recommendations were carefully thought out and aimed at protecting all aspects of the environment.

On the other hand, the CPTAQ proceedings are completely overshadowed by the appeal court's consideration of how to handle the exposed conflict of interest and illegal decorum during the original hearings. Given the facts of the case it is difficult to envision other than another CPTAQ commission, this time one which is both legally constituted and unbiased.

The National Energy Board needs to do serious work to avoid a mark of failure. It is disappointing to say, but the NEB has released a report of deplorable quality (comprehensive, perhaps, but not comprehensible) whose principle conclusions are totally unsupported by the evidence presented.

The document we have received, the Comprehensive Study Report for GH-1-97, is this the rough draft? After three months of consideration by the National Energy Board of Canada one expects more than a poorly-written document filled with ambiguity and repetitions of inaccurate and contradictory information placed in the public record by TQM.

The sudden appearance of vague commitments by TQM in the report is a rather interesting development. Were there communications between the NEB and TQM after the end of the NEB hearings which did not benefit from public examination?

Nearly everything that TQM has proposed has come from the landowners themselves. This would be a good thing if it had been the result of consultation and a genuine commitment to the environment on the part of TQM, but it was not. It was the result of contention, not consultation. Stone-walling for fifteen months and then making a few concessions at the stroke of midnight is the tactic. TQM's refusal to make any serious engagement with landowners is an attempt to dissipate the landowners' energy and reduce the number of issues which TQM must address.


On page two of the Comprehensive Study Report's Summary, the NEB concludes that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, provided that mitigative measures identified during the proceedings are implemented and enforced. This conclusion is invalid because a) the environmental studies submitted by TQM are either incomplete, incompetent, or missing altogether; b) without actual knowledge of an environment it is impossible to mitigate effectively; c) there are doubts about TQM's ability to successfully carry out even those mitigations which are known to be necessary.

On page sixteen of the Comprehensive Study Report, the NEB says that it does not think that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency requires it to make specific findings of fact or to conduct an environmental assessment of any of the alternatives to the PNGTS Extension project. I strongly disagree with the Board. In this case the evidence that the environment will not be damaged is more than sufficiently in doubt to warrant not only a reexamination of the case under study, but also a serious examination of alternatives to the project, of which there are some very attractive candidates.

The environmental studies

In my brief to the National Energy Board on this project I made the point, which seems to have been lost upon the panel, that flora and fauna inventories are extremely important in two respects:

  1. Without them it is impossible to evaluate the environmental impact created by a project, before or after a project.
  2. They indicate what mitigative measures are necessary and desirable.

The following sections will show what an abysmal job TQM did on their inventories and environmental assessment. It is on the basis of this work that NEB says TQM has the knowledge and ability to mitigate the damage that would be caused by their project

The overall methodology
Apparently, TQM's plan was to survey birds, plants, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians along 7.6 to 8.8 km of right-of-way where, according to existing information, there is the possibility of rare or endangered flora and fauna. We won't dwell upon whether studying less than four percent of a 220km right-of-way going through such outstanding, varied, and sensitive areas as are found in the Eastern Townships is sufficient to provide reliable, accurate information, but one would at least think that the modest goal of inventorying the flora and fauna along roughly eight kilometers of proposed right-of-way would be attainable.

Did TQM's consultants succeed? No, they did not, not by any stretch of the imagination. TQM sampled databases and existing literature which pointed them in some of the right directions, but then they used the wrong people to look at the wrong things at the wrong times of the year. Unsurprisingly, not much was found.

Let's examine the surveys individually, beginning with reptiles and amphibians.

Reptiles and amphibians
The NEB's Comprehensive Study Report (p.47) wants us to know that "particular attention" was given to reptiles and amphibians so this is a good place to start. How was the reptiles and amphibians inventory made?

Simultaneously searching for birds and reptiles and amphibians strikes me as rather absurd; it must be difficult to walk, let alone find anything while trying to look up and down at the same time. This highly unorthodox methodology receives low marks.

Surveying for rare plants and reptiles and amphibians at the same time at least sounds more plausible. But the rare plant team on my land told me that although yes, they did have a book on reptiles and amphibians in their back pocket, as botanists they were not qualified to inventory those creatures, someone else would have to do that survey.

Well, what were the results of these "surveys"?

With one team surveying the amphibians and reptiles while scanning the sky and tree tops for rare birds, and with neither the ornithologists nor the botanists being qualified to inventory amphibians and reptiles, how reliable are these surveys? Not very, says TQM:

Apart from being "surveyed" at the wrong time of the year by unqualified personnel, how else were the reptiles and amphibians singled out for "particular attention"?

TQM "suggests" that it will be "cautious", but the panel is unsure what form precautions will take. Given TQM's extravagantly bad track record of communicating instructions to their employees (see BAPE report pages 148-49) it will be interesting to see how they do in impressing such well-defined intentions as these upon the operators of the bulldozers. Perhaps in recognition of the difficulties involved in spotting such shy, unobtrusive creatures from a moving bulldozer, the NEB panel does have some special words of advice to the amphibians and reptiles: "Get out of town" (CSR, page 54) .

So much for the special attention accorded to the reptiles and amphibians. But how about the mammals? Being furry and warm-blooded, mammals in general are much more easily cottoned up to by humans. In order to appreciate the way mammals were inventoried we will first consult the transcripts of the BAPE hearings, which were placed in the public record during the NEB hearings.

TQM's chief consultant tells the BAPE commission that detailed inventories are conducted in the general areas where the presence of vulnerable or endangered species is indicated by the (Québec) Ministry of the Environment:

If this is not clear enough, the same consultant reiterates his point during the following day's hearing:

TQM's chief consultant acknowledges that

When I spoke with the botanists doing the inventory of rare plants on my land last June 27th, they said they did not know who would do the mammal inventory (not them), but that one would be made later in the summer.

Now we consult the NEB Comprehensive Study Report to learn when and by whom mammal inventories were done.

In spite of TQM's acknowledgements before the BAPE of the need and requirement for, and their own commitment to the undertaking, no specific mammal surveys were conducted. Instead, TQM recorded observations of mammals made by the ornithologists while they surveyed birds and reptiles and amphibians, and by botanists that were surveying rare plants and reptiles and amphibians.

Rare plants
In Section 4.3.1, Rare, Endangered and Significant Plants, the CSR states that the Québec Ministry of the Environment accepted TQM's proposed methods and timing for the rare plant surveys. I would like to hear from the Ministry that TQM proposed and the Ministry approved a plan to have botanists inventory rare plants while they simultaneously surveyed reptiles and amphibians and observed mammals

And how can anyone suggest that a rare plant inventory be carried out during June, July, and August when vegetation along the right-of-way is over three feet high in many places?

Section 4.3.1 also states that the plant inventory was done along a 100 meter wide band centered over the pipeline route. I would like to know where the NEB obtained this information because the botanists I spoke with told me that they were surveying 30 meters on each side of the right-of-way. The width of the right-of-way has been pegged at 23 meters maximum and 30+23+30 does not add up to 100 in my book.

Before leaving the subject of rare plants I would like to direct the reader's attention to the final paragraph of the Conclusions of Section 4.3.1 on page 28. Although I consider myself to have a reasonably good grasp of the English language, I have been unsuccessful in my efforts to decipher the meaning of this paragraph – it borders on gibberish. In a somewhat similar fashion, the conclusion of the following section (4.3.2) on pp. 29-30 forces the reader's mind to embark upon an Escher-like staircase with no logical beginning or end. Perhaps the writer intended to say if TQM had used an effective method of rare plant identification.

Fish and aquatic habitats
During a NEB hearing in Orford I twice asked TQM's chief environmental consultant whether studies were made of fish and their habitat along the right- of-way. His answers were so convoluted that Dr. Valieda could not resist reminding him that in response to a similar question posed by herself in Montreal his answer had been no. It's not surprising that she remembered the Montreal exchange because she herself had to ask the same direct question no fewer than three times before receiving a direct answer (see GH-1-97 pp.238- 240). How can I lie to you? Let me count the ways.

Like their wetlands "inventory", TQM made no field studies of fish or their habitat along the proposed right-of-way. TQM simply perused existing literature and databases and produced some tables. It's so dry and cozy in the office.

How to have confidence in TQM?

Although the NEB categorically states that there will be no significant adverse impacts on the environment in it's conclusion, look at the tentative way it states the reasons throughout the report:

It is self-evident that actions which are not carried out do not achieve the effect for which they are designed, so why does the report belabor the obvious? The answer can only be that the NEB, either consciously or unconsciously, is telegraphing their doubts as to the ability and/or commitment of TQM to carry out the actions to which they have committed themselves. Considering how TQM made their flora and fauna inventories this is a serious concern.

Although the NEB's message is subliminal, the BAPE's report on this project describes explicitly the potential for damage to the environment by these promoters.

Surprised by the extent to which the NEB went to qualify their conclusions, I decided to compare them with those found in several Reasons for Decisions issued by the NEB regarding other natural gas pipeline projects. Here are a few extracts taken from the conclusions of the environmental sections of other NEB documents:

The high level of the Board's confidence expressed in these excerpts is in sharp contrast to the wording used throughout the GH-1-97 comprehensive study report. How can the Board sound so sure of their conclusions about TQM's project based on such tentative expressions of confidence in the company? I decided to further analyze the report for the presence of other words and phrases that might indicate confidence levels on the NEB's part. I used a variety of keywords but was only able to come up with two passages . Let's look at them in turn.

There at the end of the paragraph is the most direct expression of confidence the Board makes in TQM. Of course it is preceeded by a conditional expression of confidence and two expressions of caution, including a confirmation that TQM's rare plant survey was incomplete. How else did NEB express confidence in TQM.

Is someone trying to piss me off? Besides being ungrammatical, this passage is unequivocally preposterous. I know nothing about île aux Fermiers, but after living in complete harmony with nature here on Bunker Hill for twenty-six years I know one or two things about this place and I can also tell you what TQM knows about it: ZIP!

TQM's environmental assessment includes a brief description of Bunker Hill's orientation, topography, and vegetation. By midsummer last year TQM employees had trespassed across the abandoned Hydro Québec right-of-way on the Bunker at least four times of which I am aware. Since then they have entered my land two or three times with my permission. Let's look at their "demonstrated understanding".

Concerning TQM's demonstrated knowledge of the orientation of Bunker Hill: TQM's environmental assessment indicates that the Bunker Hill escarpment is located on the western flank of the hill. For twenty-six years I have watched sunrises from this escarpment: it is located on the southeastern side of the hill. I've informed TQM of this error three times and yet during the NEB hearings in Orford when I asked their chief environmental to identify which direction the escarpment faced, he and two of his aides using their own maps were unable to do so correctly.

Concerning TQM's demonstrated knowledge of the topography of Bunker Hill: TQM incorrectly stated the steepness of the right-of-way where it descends the escarpment twice to the NEB. Only because of my persistence did they revise their calculation upward from twenty to twenty-eight degrees.

Concerning TQM's demonstrated knowledge of the stream which is immediately adjacent to the proposed right-of-way on my land: long after their supposed survey of waterways had been completed TQM was ignorant of that stream. After I told them about it they couldn't find it even as they stood in the ankle-deep water of the wet area which feeds it. I had to lead them to it.

Concerning TQM's demonstrated knowledge of the Bunker Hill's exceptional forest ecosystems: five months after I first asked for their locations, TQM provided a set of three coordinates which seemed to identify an area several kilometers from the right-of-way. I placed those coordinates on a map for the NEB panel and pointed out that they did not result in a valid triangulation. Finally, TQM produced a map showing that the right-of-way threads its way through three of four old maple forests on the Bunker Hill which are considered by the Québec Ministry of the Environment to be exceptional forest ecosystems.

Concerning TQM's demonstrated knowledge of mammals, rare plants, birds, reptiles and amphibians on the Bunker: We have already seen how professionally the TQM consultants made the inventories, but did I mention that TQM chose not to include the Bunker in the amphibian inventory even after I told them last summer that I was aware of several kinds of salamanders near the stream next to the right-of-way (you know, the one they couldn't find). Or that they decided against any supplemental amphibian survey even after by chance I discovered a salamander last fall which, according to the NEB, is a candidate species to be designated as threatened or vulnerable in Québec.

Concerning TQM's "approach" towards the Bunker Hill: have I mentioned that after having given TQM permission to survey my land after the conclusion of the NEB hearings last fall I discovered that, contrary to their recent undertaking to use only 18 meters, they surveyed a right-of-way 23 meters wide, or that on top of that they off-set the surveyed right-of-way from the existing clear-cut right-of-way by between three and four meters?

Demonstrated knowledge my eye. Allow me to remind the reader that this project is no longer in the planning stage. TQM is just waiting for all of its approvals to rev up the shovels and bulldozers.


PTQM has not meaningfully fulfilled the obligation it has to study the environment which would be affected by its pipeline project.

The National Energy Board has issued a very, very poor comprehensive study report about this pipeline application. The report is incomprehensible in places, ambiguous throughout, and uncritical of most of the serious shortcomings of TQM's application.


I have three recommendations.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency should insist that TQM make a legitimate environmental assessment for their PNGTS Extension project, including valid inventories of flora, fauna, wetlands, and waterways.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency should insist that the National Energy Board of Canada issue a comprehensible and congent Comprehensive Study Report concerning the environmental aspects of the TQM project.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency should require the National Energy Board of Canada to conduct an environmental assessment of the alternatives to the PNGTS Extension project. Specifically:

  1. Extension of the lease on the Montreal-Portland Pipeline.
  2. Using the Montreal to Portland right-of-way to carry out their project.

Supplementary Commentary

There are many other issues, including the EPN and the effectiveness of complaints to the NEB which I would like to comment upon, but there is no time left to me. There is one, however, which, while not directly related to my main commentary I would like to touch upon.

Pipeline safety and the value of human life

At the beginning of my main commentary on the Board's CSR, I pointed out that by refusing to inform and consult landowners, instead forcing them to resort to confrontation, TQM succeeded in reducing the number of issues with which they had to deal.

Only at this late stage have I come to realize how I was lulled into a false sense of security by TQM and wound up spending all of my energy defending ferns and salamanders while effectively ignoring the threat posed to my family by their pipeline.

Throughout public information meetings and hearings, TQM told landowners over and over that the only reason for thicker pipe in higher density population areas is to mitigate against the potential for the pipeline to be damaged by third-party digging activity. Here are some examples:

I really don't know why I believed these statements by TQM long after I realized that they were lying about practically everything else, but I did. I fell for the big lie, a tactic used extensively by TQM. It was, therefore, with a terrible, sinking feeling that I read Effects of Accidents or Malfunctions, Mitigative Measures, beginning on page 74 of the CSR and realized that pipe thickness is not a mitigation against damage by third-party intrusion as we were told by TQM, but rather, as common sense would have it, a method of reducing the maximum allowable stress level of a pipeline: specifically, as required by CSA Z662 where there the density of human settlement is higher. What despicable, lying cowards they are for not having the guts to tell people the truth.

Based on ballpark figures suggested by a TQM engineer, I estimate that it would cost the company about $6,500 to give my family the chance to run for their lives instead of being suffocated and then cremated nearly instantly in the event of a rupture with ignition on their line. Sixty-five-hundred bucks Canadian. Unless my math is wrong, this is something like two-and-one-half thousandths of one percent (.0025%) of the total cost of the project. Does this sound like an unreasonable financial burden on a company which will make millions of dollars in profits from their installation?

What kind of standard is this CSA Z662 that it discriminates against certain members of our society simply because they live a little further from their neighbors than others do? What kind of a standard puts a higher value on the profits of a private company than it does on human lives? Until recently, "standards in Canada, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere around the world" also found it acceptable to manufacture millions of dollars worth of land mines each year and then ship them off to every kind of political regime imaginable.

My wife and I have a six-year-old daughter and in about six weeks time we will have an adopted eighteen-month-old baby boy – a baby boy whose parents were likely killed by a land mine in Southeast Asia. Are the four of us now to be condemned to live less than two-hundred feet from a twenty-four inch, high-pressure natural gas pipeline which conforms to a standard which is designed to be adequate in desolate stretches where there is "almost nothing" in the words of one of Janin's engineers, but which is not considered sufficiently adequate to protect the lives of people in areas where they happen to have congregated in higher numbers? Perhaps TQM would like to engage BOMAR to calculate the odds of Srey's having been orphaned by a land mine in Cambodia and then do a comparative analysis with the odds of he and/or members of his new family being killed in a pipeline accident?

Yes, I have read and listened to all of the arguments about risk factors, and I have heard the company's comparisons between pipeline accidents and airplanes falling out of the sky upon one's head. Living unconsciously has never been a goal of mine and subjecting my family to the risk of certain death, however small, day in and day out, year after year is extremely difficult for me to accept.

Public participation
The GH-1-97 panel asked the landowners for suggestions as to how the NEB could increase public participation in the process. The landowners might well have asked the panel why the NEB wants to increase public participation. Is it in order to improve the process, or is it in order to improve the appearance of the process?

Here's one simple little suggestion to anyone who is listening: respond to public participation in a way that makes it meaningful.

Go Top

Go to Pipeline Blues Index

Go to Homepage