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The Sherbrooke Record
23 January 1998

MRC firm on gas pipeline conditions

Paul Cherry
Magog, Quebec

The Memphremagog MRC passed a resolution Wednesday night reiterating its position that it will only approve the proposed route of a natural gas pipeline if it meets several strict conditions.

Included in the eight conditions are the pipeline's visual impact, how the route effects wooded areas and a guarantee about the drinking water in South Stukely.

The resolution also clearly points out that the MRC was responding to a Quebec government decree when it gave its conditional approval of the pipeline in December, and such approval should not be considered as a reversal of its original position taken at environment and National Energy Board hearings.

The December 17, 1997 resolution had landowners who oppose the pipeline's route worried that the MRC had given the green light to the project and that would have weight at the National Energy Board hearings being held at the same time.

Since the December resolution was passed, coalition members met with the mayors within the MRC explaining the weight of their decision and suggested that they voted prematurely, without considering environmental and wildlife impact studies among other things. On Wednesday night the coalition members said they believe their message got across.

"We're satisfied that they did their work", said coalition member Norman Benoit adding that he didn't believe the MRC knew the pipeline's promoter, TransQuebec & Maritime Pipeline, was calling the December resolution an approval. "I think this time they took the time to listen to our concerns and understood our point very well."

On December 3, 1997 the provincial government approved the pipeline project from Lachenaie to Stukely and Ayer's Cliff to East Hereford. It left out the Memphremagog MRC because of concerns raised by a Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE) report that criticized TQM for not seriously considering the environment in its attempt to connect a pipeline with its U.S. partner through East Hereford.

The ultimate approval or rejection of the pipeline is expected in a couple of months when the National Energy Board decides if the project is worthwhile.

Only two of the MRC's mayors voted against Wednesday's resolution and Benoit said he believes that was because the wording of it didn't go far enough for them.

Municipalities like South Stukely have voiced opposition to the project because of damage it believes was done to artesian wells from the last time a pipeline was laid down in 1983. It is also still waiting for an emergency plan from when the 1983 pipeline was put in.

On another end of the landowner's battle an appeal of a decision made by an agricultural panel is being considered. A representative at the province's tribunal office in Quebec said that the appeal was being studied this week and that there might be information on a procedure date next week. The agricultural land protection commission (CPTAQ) gave its conditional approval to the project last November.

The appeal was made by the landowner's coalition because the person who chaired half the hearings is the brother of a person who handles public relations for PNGTS, an interested party in the pipeline.

The landowner's coalition are not the only people to have appealed the decision. Another interested party north of Granby also filed an appeal.

The promoters have also dropped the idea of running a pipeline to the Maritimes. Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement hearings into the extension were scheduled to be held in Magog earlier this month because a pumping station was proposed to go up in the area. They were put on hold because the promoters were busy in National Energy Board hearings on the Lachenaie - East Hereford pipeline, and have effectively been cancelled by Gaz Metropolitain and TQM.

Yesterday a representative from Gaz Metropolitain said the project "was put on ice" because the National Energy Board approved a project to bring natural gas from the offshore project, Sable Island, into the Maritimes. The market for two pipelines just wasn't there, the representative said, adding the company is still looking into branching off in some way to areas east of Quebec.

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