By Rita Legault
Landowners opposed to the construction of the Trans Quebec Maritime natural gas pipeline across their land will make a last ditch attempt in Superior Court today to suspend the project.
Citing an earlier unresolved lawsuit challenging the decision of the provincial farmland protection board, a coalition of more than a dozen landowners from South Stukely to East Hereford is petitioning Quebec Court once more to stop the work until their suit can be resolved.
The lawsuit was filed last Friday and will be heard in Montreal this morning by Judge Brigitte Charron, the same judge who heard their earlier suit in mid-May. Judge Charron has yet to release her decision on the earlier suit contesting the go-ahead by the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Quelbec and the farmland board appeals tribunal decision which confirmed it.
Since the lawsuit was argued in May, construction of the pipeline has begun and landowners complain that TQM is not following building restrictions in some sensitive areas. Part of the evidence they plan to present are aerial photographs of a tractor sitting in the middle of a waterbed near East Hereford.
"That should bloody well embarrass them," said coalition spokesman Gary Richards, adding that TQM is not supposed to go near water courses in certain areas.
Richards said the CPTAQ, which is charged with protecting farmland in Quebec, is not doing its job.
"They are supposed to be protecting agricultural interests, and TQM just keeps getting away with it."' Richards charged. "They're thumbing their noses at the agricultural protection law and we have their hand in the cookie jar and we want to see if the system is going to work."
The request for an injunction to stop the work claims that construction of the pipeline is causing major inconveniences to landowners including trespassing on their private property which violates their Charter rights. The court action says the pipeline builders are disturbing agricultural, forestry, and commercial activities of landowners and will cause the loss of trees and forests which are now under management.
The suit claims the damage is not only monetary, but that it will also create a permanent visual scar. The lawsuit points out that for some landowners the pipeline construction threatens springs and ponds, which are an important source of water for wells and livestock, that dynamiting will perturb a herd of Highland cattle, and that a Bed and Breakfast situated 30 metres from the pipeline will be hurt in the middle of the tourism season.
Lawyer Paul Thibault points out that if the construction is allowed to continue, it causes serious and irreparable prejudice to the unresolved lawsuit which is seeking the cancellation of the CPTAQ decision which would send the farmland board back to the drawing table.
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