Rural leaders say natural gas expansion a priority

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Valves at gas plant, Pressure safety valve selective focus

Heather Wright/The Independent

Lambton County municipalities, including Warwick Township, are backing Enbridge Gas in its fight against an Ontario Energy Board decision which slows the company’s plan to expand to rural areas.

In December, the OEB questioned the wisdom of the idea, turning down some of the company’s expansion requests, saying natural gas could be a casualty of the ongoing fight against climate change. The OED’s decision said it was concerned any new assets “will become stranded because of the energy transition.”

Michele Harradence, president of Enbridge, in a letter to municipal councils, said “The disappointing decision puts future access to natural gas in doubt and sets a deliberate course to eliminate natural gas from Ontario’s energy mix.”

That’s frustrating to Warwick Township Mayor Todd Case. “Natural gas is the piece that we need as a rural community when it comes to economic development opportunities, as well as giving our citizens a cheaper alternative to be able to heat their homes,” he tells The Independent adding five years ago, there was an announcement of natural gas expansion in Warwick Township. There are still no pipes in the ground.

“We need the government to put the funding in place and to do what they do what they committed to doing five and a half years ago, and it makes natural gas expansion a priority in our municipality,” Case said after his council agreed to send a letter of support to the company as it looks for a judicial review of the OEB decision.

And Case added WM Canada will soon be producing natural gas in Watford to power the rest of the region. “It’s kind of ironic that we’re sitting here talking about natural gas, when it’s being produced in our community and we’re under serviced. So, we feel very strongly that the government has to come through and they have to deliver on their promise to natural gas to our community five and a half years ago.”

Dawn-Euphemia – the home of Enbridge’s main storage area – is also the Lambton municipalities supporting the company’s concerns.

Feb. 20, council approved a motion which said, in part “there may not be enough electricity available to replace the energy provided by natural gas and meet the increased demand … and natural gas continues to play an integral role in meeting the energy needs.”

The motion letter of support added natural gas is part of “a measured approach to energy transitions, that not having access to natural gas will stifle economic growth.”