The natural gas project will likely only go forward if the provincial and federal governments pitch in some funding.
The Municipality of Kincardine, Township of Huron-Kinloss and Municipality of Arran-Elderslie jointly released a statement last Tuesday night after a day of meetings with a lawyer, Mark Rodger of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, to go over a draft feasibility study presented to them that day.
According to the release, the results of customer surveys conducted in the three communities were considered in developing the report. In the end, two options for delivering natural gas to the region were explored and included in the report. One is a proposal by Union Gas to connect the communities to an existing system north and south of the municipalities and a second option is to expand an existing system into a gas distribution network, which would be owned by the three municipalities.
“The issue is simple,” Kincardine mayor Larry Kraemer said in the media release. “Our communities need natural gas. We will continue to face economic disadvantages without it. The report presented today is a clear signal to the provincial and federal governments that our councils have taken this issue very seriously. We have done our homework and we now have a much clearer picture of what it will take to bring gas to our residents and businesses. We need Ontario and the Government of Canada to step up to make this happen.”
Last year, the province released a Long-Term Energy Plan that includes a pledge to work with municipalities to extend natural gas service to rural communities and Northern Ontario. As part of its platform during the recent provincial election, the Ontario Liberal Party pledged to expand access to natural gas services with $200 million funded over two years for a Natural Gas Access Loan and $15 million in each of 2015-16 and 2016-17 for a Natural Gas Economic Development Grant. While on the campaign trail in April, Premier Kathleen Wynne told The Independent that bringing natural gas to areas not yet serviced is “a need and a priority.”
Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie are expected to initiate discussions with the upper levels of government this fall. In the meantime, the public will have an opportunity to read the report after the three councils have accepted it.
“It is very important to us that members of the public have access to the report,” Huron-Kinloss mayor Mitch Twolan said in the media release. “Once our advisors incorporate Council’s feedback into the report, it will be finalized and released to the public. We expect this will happen before the end of September.”
“We have already held some discussions with our residents about extending gas services,” Arran-Elderslie mayor Paul Eagleson added. The report allows us to take this public consultation to the next level. There will be more opportunities to meet with and receive the input of the public in the weeks and months ahead. We intend to post the full report and supporting documents on the internet so that everyone will have easy access to these materials. Information about new developments will also be posted online to keep everyone up to date.”
The mayors stated in the release that the municipalities do not have the authority to compel anyone to hook up to the natural gas system.