September 1, 2016
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) stands in solidarity with Sipekne’katik, Millbrook, local Mi’kmaq community members, local fishers, and members of the Alton and Brentwood communities who are standing up for all Nova Scotians in their opposition to the Alton Natural Gas storage project. These communities have not been meaningfully consulted, have had their concerns repeatedly ignored, and bear the brunt of the risks of this project.
Alberta-based AltaGas is proposing to drill between four and 18 unconventional salt caverns about one kilometre underground to store natural gas in the Stewiacke region of Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia). Creating these caverns produces a staggering amount of brine wastewater, which AltaGas plans to dump into the Shubenacadie estuary. At full operation, the Alton Gas project will release approximately 10,000m3 of brine waste (3,170 tonnes of hard salt) into the river system every day. There are also explosion risks associated with the cavern wellheads.
AltaGas’s Alton Gas project poses serious risks to the Shubenacadie River ecosystem and to those living nearby. This includes threats to endangered Atlantic salmon and striped bass. The project also threatens the health, livelihoods and rights of Indigenous communities, and the safety of people living near the cavern site. EAC appealed the Province of Nova Scotia’s decision to approve operational permits for the Alton Gas Project in February, 2016. This appeal outlines several unknowns and data gaps throughout the Alton Gas Project environmental impact assessment. Our appeal was denied, along with others submitted by the Striped Bass Association, the Shubenacadie River Commercial Fisherman’s Association, Brentwood residents Colin and Valerie Hawks, and Sipekne’katik and Millbrook.
Disturbingly, neither Mi’kmaq nor non-Indigenous communities were meaningfully included in the decision to approve this project. Opposition has centred on the failure of the Province of Nova Scotia and AltaGas to meaningfully consult and engage relevant communities. For example, one couple living directly across from the cavern site were not properly notified by AltaGas, and did not learn about this project until years after the environmental impact assessment was completed and approved by Nova Scotia Environment.
Despite clear responsibility, Federal authorities have also failed to meaningfully regulate this project, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada and the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency. For example, Inner Bay of Fundy Salmon are legally protected under the Species at Risk Act. The Alton Gas project represents a serious misstep by the Federal government in meeting its commitments to build strong nation-to-nation relationships based on respect.
EAC advocates for a future that is sustainable, provides local jobs, and aligns with our cultural history and values. The communities facing the brunt of the direct environmental impacts of the Alton Gas project have not been involved in the planning of this project, and have not been adequately represented by our government. We believe this is a profound failure to respect the rights of communities to shape their own future, and a missed opportunity to work respectfully with those seeking to create a better future for all Nova Scotians.
In solidarity with Sipekne’katik, Millbrook, local Mi’kmaq community members, local fishers, and members of the Alton and Brentwood communities, we believe that:
1. The Alton Gas project should be halted until adequate consultation takes place with Sipekne’katik, Millbrook and broader Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq communities, and Free, Prior and Informed Consent has been given.
2. The Alton Gas project should be halted until adequate consultation is also conducted with the non-Indigenous people directly affected by this project.
3. The Alton Gas project should be halted until the Species at Risk Act critical habitat designation is made for critical habitat for Inner Bay of Fundy salmon.
4. Both AltaGas and the Government of Nova Scotia have an absolute responsibility to respect Mi’kmaq rights to food and ceremony.
5. The Alton Gas project represents a serious misstep by the Federal government in meeting its commitments to build strong nation-to-nation relationships based on respect.