Province confirms $22 million for initiative
By Pauline Kerr
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) announced last week that it will hold a public hearing this spring for EPCOR’s application to construct pipelines to bring natural gas to the region, bringing the project a step closer to fruition.
The public can access EPCOR’s application via the OEB website (www.oeb.ca/noticeltc case number EB-2018-0263) and provide feedback until April 15. The hearing date has not yet been made public.
In related news, although it’s a bit different from what the province announced, the actual figure of $22 million, confirmed by Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson’s office, is “still good news,” according to Huron-Kinloss Deputy Mayor Don Murray.
The matter was discussed during the March 18 meeting of Huron-Kinloss council.
A report by Clerk Emily Dance stated that with the change in provincial governments, Southern Bruce has been awaiting information on funding for the natural gas initiative.
The Southern Bruce project is a partnership between the municipalities of Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie to supply natural gas to the region.
In 2016, Southern Bruce selected EPCOR as the preferred provider through a competitive process. On April 12, 2018, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) announced its approval of EPCOR’s proposal to establish natural gas distribution services for the Southern Bruce region. Government funding is key for this type of project.
The report stated that on March 8, 2019, Ontario Regulation 24/19, made under the Ontario Energy Board Actwas filed. The regulation comes into force on July 1, 2019 and says the Southern Bruce project qualifies for $22 million for the expansion of natural gas distribution systems.
On March 12, the Ontario government announced that under the new Natural Gas Expansion Support Program, the EPCOR Southern Bruce project will be eligible for “up to $27.7 million” in funding. Municipal staff have confirmed the $22 million figure.
Mayor Mitch Twolan noted the money goes to EPCOR, not the municipalities, so he has no issue with the numbers. What he does have an issue with is the number of people who are expressing concern about how much they’re going to have to pay. “You are not forced to hook up to natural gas,” he stressed. “The pipe can go right past your door and you don’t have to hook up to it. You don’t have to pay a nickel.”
Murray provided another view, saying that he’s had a number of people asking him how they can pay to have the pipe extended to their area, perhaps a group of people getting together, so they can enjoy the benefits of natural gas.
Twolan spoke about EPCOR in glowing terms, explaining how the company “brought $100 million to our door without us putting a nickel in … it’s all EPCOR, and it’s all good.”
The man he considers responsible for bringing the project to fruition is consultant Mark Rodger. “If we did not have Mark Rodger, I don’t know….”
Murray noted EPCOR has already gone ahead and purchased the pipe – 80 kilometres of it. The project, in total will require 298 kilometres of pipeline from Dornoch to Lucknow.
With files from Barb McKay.