Mono Council shelves Enbridge bid tending gas lines

July 21, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Mono Council decided Tuesday to take no action on a request by Enbridge Gas Distribution to support the utility’s bid to change rules that prevent it extending natural gas services into rural Ontario.

The inaction came despite several councillors saying they wished they had access to natural gas. Their reluctance to support the utility was based on fears that Enbridge’s plan would burden local taxpayers.

Deputy Mayor Kenneth McGhee said he didn’t want to see gas line extensions limited to new subdivisions, observing that propane is too expensive for Mono’s farmers.

In a letter to Mayor Laura Ryan dated May 19, Mark Wilson, Enbridge’s Senior Advisor, Municipal Affairs, said an application currently before the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), if approved, “is expected to revise or permit specific exemptions from existing economic feasibility guidelines that govern natural gas expansion in Ontario.”

The letter said the application includes 39 potential expansion projects, two of which are in Mono. “The changes requested by Enbridge will make all future expansion projects more feasible as well and lessen the burden on future individual customers to convert to natural gas.”

The utility had proposed “specific forms of regulatory flexibility and/or exemptions from current OEB guidelines,” among them surcharges for new customers, an “Incremental Tax Equivalent mechanism such that municipalities are able to contribute (for a 10-year duration) toward the economic feasibility of a community expansion project, and a reduction in the “economic feasibility threshold that a project must meet before Enbridge is able to proceed with the expansion.”

Under long-standing OEB policy, natural gas distributors are prohibited from extending their lines unless they can show the proposed extension will be self-sufficient, with new revenue at least equalling the extension’s cost. The result in Mono is that no natural gas service is available outside residential subdivisions, even on the south side of Hockley Road despite its presence on the north side where it abuts the Cardinal Woods subdivision.

“It is our expectation that the OEB will decide on revised economic feasibility guidelines this fall,” the letter said.

Mr. Wilson portrayed the Enbridge application as the result of a partnership with the Province of Ontario “in meeting a lower carbon future. In an effort to help Ontario meet its climate change targets, conversion to natural gas from propane and home heating oil provides for a 20% and 25% greenhouse gas emissions reduction respectively. Today, natural gas is also 68% less expensive than electricity and 59% less expensive than home heating oil.”

He said the utility is also “working towards incorporating a renewable component to our supply – through injecting ‘renewable natural gas’ into our system to further help Ontarians reduce their emissions in a cost-effective manner.”

The mayor was asked to consider submitting a letter to the OEB and Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones “in support of natural gas.”

The Wilson letter was accompanied by a proposed resolution stating that Mono Council “recognizes the benefit of access to natural gas … in attracting new industry and creating jobs, creating more affordable commercial transportation and agriculture options and offering lower energy prices to residents and employers,” and that it “fully supports the efforts of Enbridge Gas Distribution before the Ontario Energy Board … where it seeks to address current regulatory rules and guidelines that limit Enbridge’s ability to extend service to unserved communities in rural Ontario.”

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