The first round of BAPE public hearings in Magog elicited such strong public participation that the commission graciously extended them to include a third, unscheduled evening on Friday, June 27th.
At the end of the day, members of the proponent's team appeared to be in shock and it was evident that they were taken by surprise by the quality of questions posed by concerned citizens, as well as those of the commission itself.
The proponents displayed their greatest weaknesses in the areas of protection of the environment and emergency response planning.
Inventories of flora and fauna in the proposed corridor are incomplete and obviously will not be completed before the end of the BAPE's first set of hearings. Many questions concerning the protection of the environment were given vague and inadequate answers; others could only be met with promises that they would be looked into and suitable solutions would be found.
"Don't worry, we'll take care of it" responses are worthless when they come from companies which have already broken promises and been untruthful.
And consider the case of Iroquois Pipeline Operating Co., a subsidiary of TransCanada PipeLines (TCPL) which owns TQM in equal partnership with Gaz Met (GMI). Last fall in the United States Iroquois pleaded guilty to criminal environmental charges that resulted in corporate fines totaling US$22 million as well as imprisonment and fines for four executives including TransCanada PipeLines vice-president Robert Reid.
Iroquois failed to repair 188 wetlands, buried large rocks near the pipeline
(a practice that could result in ruptures), and failed to take measures to
prevent the pipeline from sagging or shifting.
"The widespread nature of the criminal violations is almost impossible to overstate."
Joseph Pavone, acting U.S. attorney in Syracuse, N.Y. and head of the investigation.
"Almost everywhere we dug, we found
Lois Schiffer, federal Assistant Attorney General.
The proponents seemed to go through a number of flip-flops on the subjects of who would really be responsible for the Emergency Response Program and who would pay the costs associated with additional training and equipment. It will be necessary to analyze the transcripts to know the actual position of the proponents.
The individual responsible for this dossier was obviously uncomfortable in the hotseat as he was questioned by citizens and members of the commission alike. At one point he was totally unable to respond to a seemingly clear and direct question from one of the commissioners: he gestured emptyly and turned for support from other members of the proponents panel but none was forthcoming.
Apart from who would do the training and how often and who would pay for such a program, other concerns centered around the fact that the TQM facility concerned with an emergency response is a nine-to-five, five-day a week type of operation and that outside of those hours emergency calls would be directed first to a facility in Alberta and then forwarded to someone "on call". Also of clear concern to rural citizenry present is the fact that in many cases it would be volunteer personnel who would be responding to emergency situations of potentially catastrophic proportions.
Another safety concern was the distance between the proposed pipeline and the hydrogen tank located next to the Magog River and Autoroute 55. Under questioning from commissioners, the consultant who did the proponent's study confessed that he had never been given any plans for the facility - he'd simply been given a distance and told to do an analysis.
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