OFA President calls natural gas expansion “best investment” province can make for rural economy

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In a May 20 letter, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) Don McCabe called extending natural gas throughout rural Ontario the “single best investment Ontario can make to our rural economy.”

In the letter, McCabe said that, in the opinion of the OFA, “The expansion of Ontario’s natural gas infrastructure to rural and farming communities supports economic development, job creation and a more affordable cost of living for rural Ontario.” As such, they have been “working hard to make sure every level of government understands the urgency and importance of this message,” as well as “working closely with Union Gas and Enbridge to explore opportunities to expand gas lines throughout rural Ontario, and engaging with ministries and with the current Ontario Energy Board (OEB) hearings.”

He said natural gas is “needed infrastructure for long term goals in this province, and ability to harness new opportunities like renewable natural gas in the future.”

The letter is in response to “recent references to phasing out natural gas, leaked in an Ontario government report as part of the Climate Change Action Plan,” McCabe wrote. “OFA continues to advocate for vital natural gas infrastructure expansion to rural Ontario in spite of this leak.”

In a recent letter to the Sarnia Observer, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray wrote “to be very clear, the Government of Ontario is not banning natural gas or forcing anyone off of it.”

According to the minister, natural gas “will continue to play a critical role in the energy mix in Ontario.” Murray noted that the province has “made significant investments in natural gas to make it more accessible and cost-effective across Ontario,” and are “helping expand natural gas into northern and rural communities with a $230-million investment,” because “allowing communities that previously lacked the necessary infrastructure the opportunity to switch to a cheaper, cleaner fuel source will help residential and industrial consumers lower their energy bills.”

Shifting Ontario to a “low-carbon, high-productivity economy” involves both “investments in natural gas conservation and in affordable clean energy solutions,” Murray wrote. “We will continue to look at opportunities to help homeowners, businesses and farmers save money, while reducing their consumption of energy,” he wrote.

“Natural gas expansion makes sense,” wrote McCabe in his letter. “Investing in natural gas for our rural and farming communities will make substantial improvements to local economies and living standards. OFA will be looking carefully at the Climate Change Action Plan when it is released in June.”

According to McCabe, “the leaked information suggests continued rural expansion and production from agricultural sources while prohibiting natural gas use for home heating and other requirements.”

This sends a confusing message to Ontarians, he said. “OFA will be working to ensure Ontario’s farm competitiveness is not unduly compromised in a move away from our most competitive source of energy. In the short to medium term rural Ontario can benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars per year in new disposable income by saving energy costs with natural gas versus electric heat. This benefit must be weighed against all other economic factors, including the real greenhouse gas reductions of the Climate Change Action Plan to determine the best public policy.”

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