Lethbridge resident Michael Thompson, president of Halma Thompson Land Surveys and vice-chair of Professional Surveyors Canada, will get a rare chance to address the Energy Environment Committee of the Senate in Ottawa on the Canadian Energy Regulator Act portion of the controversial Bill C-69.
Thompson will speak before the committee starting at 6:30 p.m. local time on Monday, and will try to make the case the act should be amended.
“What I am going to be talking about is property rights and ground disturbance,” he says. “The main thing we would like to see changed is what is called the prescribed area. If you have a regulated linear facility like powerlines or pipelines or fibre optic cables, anything within 100 feet of the utility is subject to ground service provisions of the Canadian Energy Regulator Act.”
What that means, Thompson explains, is the one who wants to disturb the ground to construct something must first call the utility provider to inform them about the work and get the okay but do not necessarily have to inform the landowner. He wants to see that changed. He says the current act also sometimes prevents the landowner from building anything in the 100-foot prescribed area even though it is on their land to begin with.
“It creates red tape the utility owner doesn’t want to deal with and the landowner doesn’t want to deal with,” he summarizes.
“The alternative we are proposing would be to require any new utility construction to get an easement or agreement with anybody affected by prescribed area. The effect would be a reduction in the prescribed area so you are not affecting those people at all. You are not affecting their property rights.”
The other change Thompson is advocating for is to make the ground disturbance standard the same across the board for everybody in Canada.
“If you disturb a foot of soil you have to call before you dig, but if you are a farmer using cultivation it is 45 centimetres – you can go deeper,” he says. “So let’s just make it the same for everybody.”
Thompson says whatever the outcome of the senate committee hearings on his proposed amendments to the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, the process leading up to it has been a valuable learning experience for him.
“I am excited to go to Ottawa next Monday,” he says. “I have been advocating for these changes to the Canadian Energy Regulator Act for about a year. I have probably talked to about 40 parliamentarians about this of various sorts and (party) colours.”