Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The proposed "Energy Corridor" between New Brunswick and the State of Maine.

Earlier today I went to the press conference at which Premier Shawn Graham, Energy Minister Jack Keir and State of Maine Governor John Baldacci announced a feasibility study for the development of an "Energy Corridor" between New Brunswick and the State of Maine. The Department of Energy's press release can be read at:

The proposed corridor would be a "right of way" from New Brunswick travelling through Maine and into the lucrative Boston energy market. This corridor would contain electrical transmission, petrochemical and natural gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure. (Having a pre-approved corridor is a huge advantage to these type of projects. As things have stood in the past, it could take many, many years to obtain the multitude of licenses and approvals required by the State, townships and county's in the US. It took more than a decade for the regulatory approvals to build the International Power Line, and only 18 months to build.)

One advantage of this Energy Corridor for Local 37 is that if gets built, it will help speed the development of Point Lepreau II, by easing the transmission bottlenecks that currently exist between here and the US. Getting access to the US market is key for the commercial viability of additional nuclear units at Point Lepreau.

The other part of this announcement is that Irving Oil is going to invest in the project and they intend to build a natural gas power plant next to their new Liquid Natural Gas terminal in Saint John. This plant would be used to "level" the electrical load produced by the wind projects being built in New Brunswick.

It's important that Local 37 stay on top of these new developments. For example, they have said that they're looking at underground electrical transmission along the corridor, not a traditional above ground transmission system. Will our members be properly trained to construct this type of system? Will other unions (ones who normally construct underground pipelines) try to claim it as their work? What about the emergence of Irving Oil as an electrical generator? How do we forge a relationship with them so our members will have as many job opportunities as possible in the developing energy hub?

Whether we like it or not, the world and the way our energy markets work are changing. There are opportunities as well as threats in our changing energy environment and it's important that we find ways to reduce any risks to our union and it's members, but also look for ways to take advantage of the opportunities and growth that will be occurring.

(Top photo, L to R: A representative of Irving Oil, Maine State Governor John Baldacci and Premier Shawn Graham. Bottom Photo: Energy Minister Jack Keir looks on from the podium)

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