Welcome to the 20th Anniversary edition of the Pipeline Blues.
The Pipeline Blues is a case study of the intersection of pipeline siting, the environment, landowners, and bureaucracy: a case of power and struggle. And acronyms.
The case at hand is the controversial TQM (TransQuebec & Maritime) PNGTS Extension natural gas pipeline project, and its passage through the Eastern Townships (Estrie) of southern Quebec.
It's the story of several dozen Eastern Townships landowners who banded together to challenge the status quo of the pipeline industry and its Canadian federal regulator, the National Energy Board, or NEB (since renamed Canadian Energy Regulator, or CER). Their perseverance precipitated an historic, first-ever NEB Detailed Route Hearing for a pipeline.
The PNGTS (Portland Natural Gas Transmission System) Extension is a pipeline that connects the TransCanada Pipeline (TCPL) system near Montreal, Quebec with the PNGTS pipeline in New Hampshire, USA. Its purpose is to transport natural gas from Western Canada to the North East US.
The Quebec company TQM (TransQuebec & Maritime) made the project applications. It was heavily supported by a network of gas companies with inter-locking ownership. The principle promoter, and eventual operator was TCPL, TransCanada Pipeline (now TC Energy). As a Quebec company, TQM's application was crucial for Quebec government approval, but one often had the feeling it was really TCPL's project.
The project was particularly controversial in the scenic and touristic Eastern Townships (L'Estrie) region of Quebec. During initial contacts with affected landowners, company PR flacks and project personnel were arrogant and deceitful. Public interest in the Quebec environmental hearings (BAPE) (archives below) were so high that the BAPE held several public audiences in the surrounding areas. Attendance was high, exchanges between the company and landowners were sometimes tumultuous, and feelings ran high.
Over even mild recommendations by a sympathetic BAPE, the provincial government approved the un-modified project quickly and enthusiastically.
During National Energy Board (NEB) hearings exchanges between company reps and landowners again became heated. Very uncharacteristic of staid NEB hearings, in which landowners, much less landowners representing themselves, had rarely been seen. NEB hearings are not ordinarily the scene of passion, but of company lawyers dickering over spoils.
A very un-impartial NEB panel provided their foregone conclusion approval of the project over the objections of landowners and environmentalists, and that's where the story was expected to end. But forty landowners came together, organized, and demanded their right to a secondary route hearing: the first-ever for a natural gas pipeline project.
These archives tell the story of a valiant fight. One that ended NEB/TQM 40, landowners 0.
Not long after the pipeline was completed and went into operation, the East Hereford compressor station exploded, very seriously injuring a TQM employee and demolishing itself. TQM was left in disarray and TCPL effectively took over the pipeline's operation.
January 2018 (Updated January 2019)