Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline officials predict there couldbe a service delay and a rate increase on its 164,000 MMBtu/d SaintJohn lateral because clearing work has been stopped illegally byunion workers. Work was scheduled to begin last Monday on theproject, but union laborers physically prevented clearing by HEFIndustries Ltd., the hired excavation/clearing contractor, whichuses non-union labor.

“We’re seeking legal advice to see how we can go about stoppingthis interference,” Maritimes Spokeswoman Krista Jenkins said lastTuesday. “The contractor, HEF Industries, has its equipment andpeople in a construction yard and the unions won’t let them moveany equipment out to the right-of-way. Because the unions aren’tinvolved with the contractor, it is illegal for them to be stoppingour work. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are there, but I don’tbelieve there are very many and there are about 200 [union workers]there. Obviously, safety is the most important thing for everyone.We don’t want to create an incident with this.” She said thepipeline has met with union leaders “numerous times” but has beenunable to come to an agreement.

“The clearing represents only about 3% of our contract budget,”she noted, adding that the clearing contractor will use a non-unionwork force numbering about 70. “The majority of the work ispipeline construction, which represents about 80% of the budget,and all that work will be done by union contractors [employingabout 400 union workers]. So the ironic thing is that unions areholding up the clearing, which could ultimately impact the workthat is to be done by union contractors.

“Our biggest concern right now is that this could delay theproject in bringing gas to Saint John and surrounding areas andcould impact the overall cost of the project, raising the tolls.”

The $60 million lateral is designed to deliver gas produced bythe Sable Offshore Energy Project to domestic customers in NewBrunswick. The proposed 16-inch, 63-mile line will transport gasfrom Maritimes’ mainline near Big Kedron Lake to the City of SaintJohn. About 102,000 MMBtu/d of capacity on the lateral is undercontract with New Brunswick Power, Irving Oil and JD Irving.Another 62,000 MMBtu/d has been set aside to serve the new localdistribution company being formed by Enbridge.

Jenkins said Maritimes stands by its decision to use HEFIndustries for the clearing work. She said the pipeline is in theprocess of examining its legal options. The clearing contractor wasselected through a fair and open tender process, she added.

Meanwhile, the Point Tupper lateral remains under close NEBscrutiny following several pipeline failures during testing at thebeginning of the year. The company still has not been givenauthorization to open Point Tupper or to assume ownership of thelateral from the Sable Offshore Energy Project.

Construction is going smoothly on the Halifax lateral. Theproject is on schedule to me in service in November. The Halifaxlateral initially will transport 61,600 MMBtu/d to Nova ScotiaPower and other customers in Nova Scotia and will have another62,400 MMBtu/d of capacity for future markets, including the LDCbeing developed by Sempra Gas Atlantic.

Rocco Canonica

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