“We’re sick of it. We’re saying, ‘Go somewhere else. Find another route.’”
– DARRYL BREEMERSCH
An oil company’s plans to build a new pipeline to serve increased oil production in southwestern Manitoba is being opposed by a group of farmers along the proposed route.
EOG Resources Canada, which plans to begin construction of the 104-km, eight-inch-diameter pipe running from Waskada to Cromer this fall, filed an application for immediate right of entry in late February, according to Barb Miskimmin, administrator for the Manitoba Surface Rights Board.
Darryl Breemersch, a farmer from Melita, said he and a group of about 25 to 30 farmers have begun organizing in opposition to the project, hiring a lawyer and holding meetings to discuss strategies for keeping it off their property. He’s getting four to five calls per day from others seeking advice, he added.
SEVEN DAYS’ NOTICE
Landowners recently received a letter giving them seven days’ notice to submit written grounds for opposing the pipeline to the Surface Rights Board, a quasi-judicial body that mediates disputes of that nature.
“EOG is trying to make out like there is just a handful of producers who are opposed, but on the line from Waskada to Cromer there are still some who are coming out of the woodwork haven’t signed,” he said last week. “There’s a lot more that aren’t happy with it than they are trying to let on.”
Mark Hately, a spokesman for the Calgary-based company, wrote in a written statement that 70 per cent of the landowners along the route have agreed to accept a $1,000-per-acre payment, as well as compensation for crop losses and damage incurred during construction.
The rest of the landowners have not taken the offer, he added, so the company has asked the Surface Rights Board to determine “fair” compensation.
EOG’s offer is a “joke,” said Breemersch, who added that current land values in the area range from $700 to $1,300 per acre.
The pipeline would go “right down the middle” of his property, not off on a corner or an edge.
“We’re sick of it. We’re saying, ‘Go somewhere else. Find another route,’” he said.
He alleged that the company has deliberately timed their efforts to coincide with the busy seeding season, so that farmers would be focused on field work and unable to mount effective opposition.
“They want to put their pipeline in and then come back to us after and say we’ll work something out,” said Breemersch. “This has been going on since last October, and they have not negotiated at all.”
A one-metre pipe installed by Enbridge last year saw payments made to landowners of roughly $64,000 per quarter section. EOG’s offer, although the pipe is smaller, amounts to about $4,000 per quarter for a 20-metre easement deal.
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
“They keep telling us that it’s not the same size of pipe. But it doesn’t matter if it’s one foot, or five feet or 20, it’s still a hole in the ground.”
Breemersch added that he is currently dealing with pipeline repair work undertaken by another oil company on a pipeline installed 25 years ago on land that he is renting. Long trenches dug last fall still haven’t been filled, and he will be forced to seed around them, before a bulldozer comes in at a later date.
He said the company paid him just $100 per hole for “nuisance” compensation.
“That was signed 25 years ago, so we can’t do anything about that one. But we can still do something about this line,” he said.
Apart from the disruption of his field work, he’s also concerned about environmental risks from leaks and spills, as well as the future liability risks in case of pipeline abandonment.
Hately stated that the company wants to build the pipeline with a capacity of 40,000 barrels of oil per day to allow for “safer and more efficient” transport of oil and relieve pressure on local roads from truck traffic.
In his letter, Hately stated that the company first announced its plans for the pipeline to the community at an open house in November of last year, and that negotiations with landowners regarding compensation began in January.
The route was designed to avoid those who objected to it, he added.
“EOG reviewed the land values and comparable right-of-way agreements recently negotiated in the area and based our compensation offer on these facts. We extended the same offer to all landowners. This approach is often referred to as a “pattern of dealings” and is commonly relied upon across Western Canada to establish fair compensation,” he wrote.
He added that the company submitted its application to the Surface Rights Board in late February in the hope that all the right-of-way issues would be resolved before work begins in mid-June.
EOG, which has been a part of the Waskada-area oil industry for 25 years, currently operates 329 oil wells in the area, and has plans to drill 250 more in the future. [email protected]