by Pauline Kerr
Word came through late last week that the final hurdle has been crossed for the project that will bring natural gas to the area. Shovels are already in the ground.
Epcor announced that the Ontario Energy Board has approved its “Leave to Construct” application; work on the Southern Bruce Natural Gas Project began this week.
“This is an exciting time for Epcor. We’d like to thank the mayors of the Municipality of Kincardine, the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie and the Township of Huron-Kinloss for their commitment over the past several years to bringing natural gas to their communities. Natural gas will bring many benefits to the area, including lower fuel costs,” said Stuart Lee, Epcor Utilities Inc. president and CEO.
Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie couldn’t be happier.
“It’s very exciting,” Eadie said. “It’s been a long journey, and I’m thrilled to make it to this stage.”
The project will be completed in phases. The first involves building a pipeline from Dornoch in Grey County to the Bruce Energy Centre. Plans are to complete that phase this year. Come spring, the second phase will begin, bringing natural gas to Kincardine, Tiverton and area. Phase three, to be completed in 2021, will complete the project by extending the pipeline to Ripley, Lucknow, Point Clark, Lurgan Beach, Paisley and Chesley.
“We were thrilled to get the approval,” said Susannah Robinson, Epcor’s vice-president for Ontario.
As far as she’s concerned, the company is on-track to deliver natural gas to its first customers by the end of this year.
As of Monday, the process of putting down pipe began. Robinson said a lot of the work will take place at the side of the road. There should be little disruption of traffic. “Our construction partner Aecon (Group) is well versed in this.” People who’ll be affected by construction will be notified ahead of time.
She noted that people who want to know more about the project can check the website; there’s even a calculator to help them assess what their savings would be by switching to natural gas (epcor.com/southernbruce, epcor.com/SavingsCalculator, 1-888-765-2256 or gas@epcor).
For residential customers, Epcor anticipates an annual energy savings of about $750 to $1,800 per household. Businesses and farms stand to realize substantial savings, making their operations more cost-effective.
“Rates are presently being finalized,” Robinson said. “A big plus for customers is the fact they’re set for 10 years, providing stability.”
Epcor worked closely over several years with the OEB; municipal leaders in Arran-Elderslie, Huron-Kinloss and Kincardine; and two provincial governments. One of the biggest hurdles to date was receiving grant money from Ontario’s new government, Robinson said.
She credits the mayors, council members and staff who worked tirelessly, over many years, to get the project going and keep it moving forward.
“The mayors worked so hard, and showed innovation,” Robinson said. “Kudos to them.”
“On behalf of The Township of Huron-Kinloss Council and our residents I want to thank Epcor for their commitment on achieving this incredible milestone. I also want to thank Kincardine and Arran- Elderslie councils past and present for their continued support to see this project through and Mark Rodger for his guidance. Together we have achieved our goal to bring natural gas to our communities,” said Bruce County Warden and Huron-Kinloss Mayor Mitch Twolan.
Eadie, too, gives a lot of credit to the people who have worked together since 2011 to make this project happen.
“All three townships … it was unanimous … they all wanted to keep driving it forward,” said Eadie.
She gives special credit to consultant Mark Rodger of Borden Ladner Gervais who came aboard in about 2014.
According to Eadie, the thing that kept everyone on-track with the project was the need to attract more business to the respective municipalities. There will be significant savings not only for residential customers but for schools, municipal buildings and more.
Eadie noted the one question she was asked most often was, ‘do you think we’ll really get natural gas?’
She said, “For some it will mean having food at the end of the month; for others, it will be a vacation … there will be huge savings for the agricultural sector.”
For that, she was more than willing to go to hearings, attend standing committee meetings, lobby cabinet ministers, hold open houses, attend extra meetings and go through the regulatory process. “It’s been interesting,” she said, adding, “I can’t stress enough the collaborative effort – the expertise of staff and council, the work of the mayors of the three municipalities, the consultant … It’s an amazing example of co-operation.”
She credits the local press for getting crucial information to the public. Community support for the project has been tremendous, Eadie said.
“After all the hard work, we’re delighted to have natural gas coming to our community. Thank you to Epcor, and to council and staff, for their support in bringing this project to fruition,” said Mayor Steve Hammell of Arran-Elderslie.