Ontario Energy Board approves fracked gas pipeline expansion in the Toronto-area

The Toronto Star reports, "Enbridge Gas Distribution has been given clearance to go ahead with a $686.5-million pipeline expansion project in Greater Toronto. And Union Gas has been granted approval to proceed with another $423 million of projects in the GTA that will help it move gas to customers in eastern Ontario, and improve reliability on its system. The Ontario Energy Board released the decision Thursday. Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 and finish in October 2015."

"A coalition of environmental groups and the Council of Canadians opposed the projects."

"One objection is that some of the new supply that the lines will tap is gas from the Marcellus shale deposit in the U.S. It’s extracted by fracking, which has been blamed for polluting groundwater and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The Council of Canadians said that was a good reason to turn down the project, but the board didn’t accept that argument. 'There are currently no regulations in Ontario or at the Canadian federal level which prohibit shale gas production or transportation', it said. Shale gas being produced in the U.S. meets all existing environmental standards in that country as well, it said. 'There is therefore no public policy or regulation governing shale gas production which could form a basis upon which the Board could reasonably deny the application', it said."

Background
On June 28, 2013, the Council of Canadians filed submissions with the Ontario Energy Board, containing three reports. Those reports called into question the viability of the pipeline expansion project and show that the cost for energy companies to meet water, environmental and public health regulations as well as a decline in natural gas availability would result in increased costs for customers. The reports were prepared by fracking experts David Hughes, the president of Global Sustainability Research Inc.; Anthony Ingraffea, a professor at Cornell University; and Lisa Sumi, an environmental consultant specializing in energy and extractive industries.

At that time, our legal counsel Steven Shrybman said, "When much-needed environmental regulation catches up with the fracking industry, the shale deposits of the U.S. Northeast are unlikely to provide reliable supply to Ontario consumers. The role of the OEB is to protect the public interest with respect to energy supply as well as promote energy conservation and efficiency. We believe it needs to closely examine the wisdom of expanding expensive infrastructure to increase Ontario’s dependence on shale gas development, which has a very large carbon footprint, when conservation and efficiency measures will be far more sustainable."

In November 2013, the Toronto Star reported, "(Enbridge) warns (its expansion is necessary because) supplies of natural gas from western Canada may be throttled by dwindling supply in the west, and by limited capacity on TransCanada Corp.’s mainline. TransCanada proposes to convert some of the line’s capacity to carry oil (with the Energy East pipeline)." Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue notes that the three reports submitted to the OEB in June 2013 will be brought forward again in the Ontario Energy Board public consultation process on the Energy East pipeline.

The Canadian Press is also reporting on yesterday's decision here.

Further reading
Council warns against Enbridge gas pipeline expansion in the GTA
Plan to bring fracked gas to GTA not worth the risks to the Great Lakes
Reports on fracking for the Ontario Energy Board (OEB)
Three out of three experts agree: a frack pipe is the last thing Toronto needs
Ontarians: Say 'no' to the frack pipe