Politics and gas pipelines

The TQM PNGTS Extension Project

The TransQuebec & Maritimes Pipelines (TQM) project is known as the PNGTS Extension. It extends the TQM system from Lachenaie, Quebec to Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS ) at the border between Quebec and New Hampshire. The proposed route is 220km long and involves 40 municipalities, nine MRC's, and more than 900 landowners.

The completed system would ship natural gas at high pressure (1,400 psi) from the TransCanada Pipelines system (TCPL) at Saint-Lazare, Quebec to Portland, Maine for distribution in the New England region of the deregulated U.S. market.

Western Canadian natural gas was delivered from Montreal to PNGTS in the past via a leased pipeline across Northern New England belonging to the Montreal Portland Pipeline Company. That pipeline right-of-way has existed since the 1940's.

Although it was the best-kept secret of the BAPE environmental hearings, TQM originally proposed for their new pipeline to cross the Canadian/U.S. border at Highwater, Quebec (Jay, Vermont) and parallel the Montreal Pipelines right-of- way to Portland, ME. The environmental assessment had been 90% completed for the Northern Vermont route and had received the support of the state and local governments in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

After a Quebec government economic summit in the fall of 1996, TQM suddenly withdrew their application for that route, saying that they had been requested by their U.S. partners, PNGTS, to cross the border at East Hereford, QC and deliver the gas in New Hampshire. The new Canadian route, longer by 100 kilometers and 140 million dollars more expensive, crosses one of the most scenic regions of Quebec, the Eastern Townships.

Why did TQM do this? Simple: the Quebec government decided it would be a good deal to generate a little economic activity in the province at the expense of gas customers in Ontario through an interesting arrangement known as rolled- in-tolling, whereby gas customers on the TCPL (TransCanada Pipelines) system are obliged to subsidize further expansion of the transportation network.

The Quebec government correctly assumed that approval of the project at the Federal level would be pretty much a given as a political gesture to the province.


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