New $4.5B pipeline to carry natural gas from northern Ontario to Quebec
Proposed pipeline would cross 65 km of wilderness between Ramore and Quebec border
The comparisons between a new natural gas pipeline proposed for northern Ontario and the ill-fated Energy East project are unavoidable.
The controversial plan to convert the existing natural gas pipeline that runs across Canada—including along highway 11 from Hearst to Mattawa—to carry crude oil was the last pipeline pitched for the region.
The new Energie Saguenay pipeline also involves that same national TransCanada natural gas line, proposing to branch off near Ramore and carry natural gas another 750 km to a liquefaction plant in Saguenay, Quebec.
And the president of Gazoduq, the company behind the $4.5 billion plan, was also involved in Energy East.
But Louis Bergeron says it is a "totally different project" with a lot of benefits for northern Ontario.
"This is a $4.5 billion project, roughly 10 per cent of it will be spent in Ontario and there will be quite a few indirect jobs," he says.
He says the 65 km of pipeline in northern Ontario, running north of Kirkland Lake and south of Highway 101, will also bring natural gas service to new areas, plus provide property tax revenue to northern municipalities.
"So a lot of indirect advantages also associated with the operation of the line," says Bergeron.
He is quick to point out how this pipeline is better for the environment than Energy East, with no lasting impact from a natural gas leak as opposed to an oil spill.
Bergeron also says when this liquefied gas is shipped overseas, it will encourage some energy producers to stop burning oil and coal.
"We're talking about a project that will help significantly the [greenhouse gas] emissions around the world. So this is a totally different project," he says.
But Brennain Lloyd from the North Bay-based environmental group Northwatch calls that a "weak" argument that only works if natural gas replaces truly "nasty" energy sources.
"That only works if you assume the energy demand they're replacing is all dirty energy, is all oil and coal," she says, adding that gas pipelines do occasionally experience fiery ruptures, such as what happened in the Englehart area in 1979 and 2009.
Lloyd says Energie Saguenay could potentially have more impact on the northern wilderness than Energy East, since a new pipeline will be built instead of refurbishing an existing one.
"New pipeline, new corridor, new disturbance, much higher environmental impacts," she says.
Gazoduq is planning a round of consultations early in the new year to select the best possible route for the pipeline, with the hopes of finishing an environmental assessment by spring 2019, starting construction in 2020 and turning on the gas in 2022.
Calls to municipal leaders in Black River-Matheson, the closest municipality to the proposed pipeline, were not returned.
The nearby Wahgoshig First Nation says it is not commenting on the project at this time.