Province firms up commitment to natural gas expansion


By Barb McKay


The Ontario government has officially pledged to expand natural gas service to areas not already serviced, and that could be good news for Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss.


The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Industry made the announcement Friday that it would extend natural gas service and would provide funding in the form of a $200 million Natural Gas Access Loan and $30 million Natural Gas Economic Development Grant. The funding is aimed at helping regions not currently serviced to attract investment, create jobs and provide more energy choices.


In a media release, the Ministry reported that in the next year it will be seeking input from communities on the design of natural gas programs. The province is encouraging communities to partner with utilities to present expansion plans. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) is accepting proposals for projects and applicants can provide options to address any potential regulatory challenges. That part of the announcement is what is most significant to Kincardine, mayor Anne Eadie told The Independent Monday.


“We have been working toward that end with our research and by lobbying the government,” she said. “It’s also nice to know that the OEB is considering flexibility.”


Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss Township and Arran-Elderslie have been working jointly over the past three years studying the need for natural gas service, undertaking a feasibility study and developing a business case. Eadie said the municipalities have been doing their homework and are working very well together.


Huron-Kinloss mayor Mitch Twolan said the announcement is positive.


“This is exactly what we have been meeting with the Ministries and the OEB about,” he said.


The municipalities have already extended requests for information from utilities that could partner with them to supply natural gas. Twolan said he expects there will be more information available on that front by the middle of May. Special council meetings have been scheduled for May 19 in Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss to discuss the project.


Twolan said there are other municipalities in Ontario that are looking to acquire natural gas service and this project will require the approval of the OEB.