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Selwyn Township businesses fear financial hits after Enbridge pipeline project halted

Click to play video: 'Selwyn Township businesses potentially out thousands as Enbridge Gas pipeline project halted'
Selwyn Township businesses potentially out thousands as Enbridge Gas pipeline project halted
A number of businesses in Selwyn Township fear they could be on the hook for thousands of dollars after an Enbridge Gas natural gas pipeline expansion project was put on hold. As Robert Lothian explains, a recent appeal has left owners in a state of flux – Dec 7, 2023

A number of businesses just north of Peterborough, Ont., fear they will lose thousands of dollars in investments after a natural gas pipeline expansion project in Selwyn Township was abruptly put on hold in late November, days from completion.

This fall Enbridge Gas started construction on the $1.7 million project along the 8th Line (County Road 18) in Selwyn. Once completed, natural gas pipelines would serve 87 customers along the 8.4 kilometre roadway spanning the villages of Bridgenorth to Lakefield. The project would tie into an existing Enbridge Gas system at the 8th Line and Selwyn Road intersection.

Construction began after the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) gave the project full approval in September 2023, stating the project was “the best alternative to meet the need” of customers — both residential and commercial.

However, on Nov. 28 Enbridge Gas announced it made a “difficult decision” to halt construction, citing the OEB has agreed to hear an additional motion by an environmental advocacy organization.

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Enbridge had stated on Nov. 21 it expected to have facilities in service on Dec. 1.

A map of the Enbridge Gas natural gas pipeline expansion project on the 8th Line in Selwyn Township.

The company says the motion also impacts two other ongoing pipeline projects: Hidden Valley in Huntsville, and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte project within Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

No details have been provided on what the additional motion entails. Enbridge Gas says the motion could take up to 60 days to review, putting the company at financial risk.

“These additional steps, extended timelines and risk of the cancellation of our approval create uncertainty,” Enbridge Gas said in a statement to Global News Peterborough. “This uncertainty creates risks for our investments. Enbridge Gas has a fiduciary obligation to protect our stakeholders and existing customers and, as such, has ceased construction until the OEB’s process concludes and all appeal periods have expired.

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“We are asking concerned customers to contact the OEB and/or the Ministry of Energy directly. We are hopeful that the OEB and the Government of Ontario can work together to resolve this situation quickly.”

Businesses impacted

The construction halt has caught a number of 8th Line business owners off-guard, including Bill Prentice and Fred Jackson with Roto Spa.

After a massive fire destroyed the hot tub business in July 2021, the pair have rebuilt the business from the ground up. Now they say their planned access to natural gas is up in the air.

“Literally the final hour, they were pressure-testing the system Thursday of last week,” said Prentice on Thursday. “They’ve been shut down.”

The co-owners say they invested about $40,000 on hookups and other preparations for the natural gas service.

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“These decisions have been made to go with gas and it was supposed to be available and now we don’t have a way to heat it properly,” said Prentice.

He said the 60-day delay could have a “major impact” on the company’s direction. If the gas line is not approved, Prentice says it could mean up to another $30,000 to switch to propane service.

“We’re really going to have to sit down and make decisions as to how far ahead we go and what we can do,” he said.

Other business owners that Global News spoke with on Thursday shared their frustrations and shock over the project’s abrupt shutdown.

“The process is 99 per cent complete,” said Harvey Clodd of Delray Granite which makes granite and quartz counter tops. “Nothing environmentally went wrong during the install.”

Added Patrick Smith, co-owner of Paluski Boats, which manufactures canoes and kayaks: “To be honest with you, I was actually flabbergasted when I got a notification that everything had been stopped.”

Rick Hickson with R&J Machine, which builds custom boat docks, says his company was also preparing for the natural gas service.

“We’ve spent over $3,000 putting piping into our buildings,” said Hickson.

Craig Tedford with Scott Concrete also invested thousands of dollars for the new energy source.

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“I have in writing contracts that I will take five new furnaces,” he said.

Terry Dunford, who runs his self-named excavating company, says businesses are stuck with a bill for no service. Businesses are writing t0 the township to seek support.

“I don’t think that’s fair we’ve spent the money to connect to it and they’ve just said no you’re not getting it.”

Selwyn Township Mayor Sherry Senis and Deputy Mayor Ron Black says the township council likely will discuss the issue at its next meeting.

“We’ll be speaking with our colleagues to see if we can reach an agreement to send a letter of support to Enbridge,” said Senis.

“Having it stopped at this point in the process, it really jeopardizes any future plans that businesses might have around converting away from oil and propane,” added Black.

Peterborough County intends to send correspondence to the Ministry of Energy and OEB to request motion filed be dismissed. In a draft letter going to council next week, County warden Bonnie Clark states she fully supports the project and asks that the issue be resolved in a timely manner.

“These ongoing delays for residential, business, and Indigenous communities waiting for access to reliable, affordable natural gas under Phase Two of Ontario’s Natural Gas Expansion Program are unacceptable,” states Clark.

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Enbridge says the projects won’t proceed until the OEB review is complete and all appeal periods have elapsed.

“We recognize that this will be a challenge for the municipalities and Indigenous communities expecting to connect to natural gas to lower their energy costs and reduce their emissions,” Enbridge stated. “They want natural gas, and we want to connect them. Regulatory barriers are preventing that from happening.

“It’s important to note that this is not a negotiation process, and we must wait for the outcome of the regulatory review by the OEB to have confidence that our projects have approval to move forward.”

— with files from Robert Lothian/Global News Peterborough

 

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