For the first time ever, the National Energy Board will be forced to hold more than two dozen detailed route hearings into a natural gas pipeline.
Requests for the public hearings have been filed by 28 local landowners and two municipalities located along the PNGTS extension, a controversial 213- kilometre high-pressure underground pipeline which will pass through the Eastern Townships on its way from Lachenaie near Montreal to Portland, Maine.
The $275 million pipeline, which is scheduled to begin operations in November, will ship gas from TQM's facilities in Lachenaie to a connection point with the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS) along the New Hampshire/Quebec border near East Hereford.
The hearings, which are the final level of appeal for landowners opposed the passage of the pipeline under their land, will be held on July 13 in Magog/Orford and on July 27 in Montreal.
The energy board approved the general route in April, saying that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency determined that the pipeline "is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental impacts" as long as "mitigative measures" are implemented.
During the detailed route hearings landowners will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses from TQM as well as present their own evidence concerning the best possible route for the pipeline and the most appropriate methods and timing for the construction.
But the NEB will not consider matters which were examined by the first set of public hearings such as the need for the pipeline and its general route from Lachenaie to East Hereford. In other words, landowners may be able to obtain modifications to the route, but won't succeed in keeping it out of their communities.
Detailed route hearings are part of a little used section of the federal energy act which allows individuals to contest the detailed routing of pipelines and power lines. It has only been used twice, both times here in the Eastern Townships during the 1980ís to fight the construction of Hydro- Quebec power lines set up to export hydroelectric power to the United States.
While landowners failed to block the construction, some obtained minor adjustments to the lines.
TQM must keep on file copies of the Plan, Profile and Books of Reference, which give the detailed routes of the project, as well as evidence and all related documents for public viewing.
The documents can be consulted at TQMs head office in Montreal, at the public libraries in Magog, Coaticook and Sainte Julie, and at the Energy Board office in Calgary.
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