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An Imbalance of Power

Routing a natural gas pipeline is obviously an extremely difficult task, and as much so for reasons of public relations as engineering. Perhaps in recognition of this fact, Canadian legislation makes provisions for expropriation of private land for obtaining a right-of-way.

The companies also have vast financial and human resources which are unavailable to landowners when it comes to representing their project to the various agencies involved in the certification process. And the process itself is well-known and understood by the companies, whereas few landowners have any prior experience in these matters.

If these advantages were not enough, the companies also take full advantage of the fact that their actions in dealing with landowners do not generally come under close scrutiny. Thus they are able to advance their agendas using questionable practices which frequently cross ethical boundaries. Such practices include providing incorrect and incomplete information to landowners, and dividing landowners and pitting them against one another.

As more and more landowners are faced with the prospect of a pipeline on their property, there have been calls for redressing the existing imbalance of power between large, powerful companies, and the realitively isolated, resource-poor landowners. The National Energy Board (NEB) has proposed an intervenor funding program to assist landowners in obtaining legal and expert consultant services.

This proposal is supported by the Ontario Pipeline Landowners' Association (OPLA). In their submissions, OPLA stated:

"...because landowners are unlikely to have the resources necessary to advance their interests at a hearing, companies have limited incentive to address landowner concerns during the pre-hearing process."

We think OPLA is right on and it is easy to see why the Canadian pipeline industry is strenuously opposed to NEB's proposal - with their vast resources they can simply bowl over landowner's interests to figuratively and literally bulldoze through their pipeline projects!

Throughout the process to date it has been apparent that the companies involved in the PNGTS project have little regard for the landowners: we have been stone-walled and deceived.

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