Community groups and local First Nations Bands appealing Alton Natural Gas Storage Project | Ecology Action Centre

Community groups and local First Nations Bands appealing Alton Natural Gas Storage Project

For Immediate Release

Several community groups submit appeals to NS government regarding the Alton Gas Natural Storage Project, a project approved despite serious environmental concerns and opposition from Mi’kmaq and non-indigenous residents.
February 18, 2016 | K'jipuktuk (Halifax)
From left to right: Colin Hawks (local resident in Brentwood), Art Redden (Striped Bass Association), Willie Courtney (Shubenacadie River Commercial Fishermen’s Association), Cheryl Maloney (Councillor, Sipekne’katik First Nation), Chief Bob Gloade (Millbrook First Nation), Robin Tress (Ecology Action Centre), Tori Ball (Council of Canadians)
At least 7 groups are submitting appeals to the Nova Scotia Government over concerns about the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project. Among the appellants are Sipekne’katik and Millbrook First Nations, the two closest Mi’kmaq bands to the project site, as well as the Ecology Action Centre and the Shubenacadie River Commercial Fishermen’s Association. Opposition to the project includes threats to groundwater sources, risks to local fish populations, insufficient data collection, and inadequate consultation with Mi’kmaq in the area.
The project proponent, Alton Gas, plans to develop an underground storage facility for natural gas by hollowing out four storage caverns in existing salt deposit. To develop the caverns, water will be drawn from the Shubenacadie River and pumped underground. The salt brine created will then be pumped back into the river system and natural gas moved into the caverns for storage.
In 2014, the Nova Scotia Government withheld permits to the project after intense opposition from Mi’kmaq bands and local community groups, but just last month released the final approvals for the project to move forward.
Art Rebben, from the Striped Bass Association is disappointed with inadequate precautions and lack of independent research used to vet the project.  “Serious precautions need to be taken in the river, and we’re not seeing them,” says Rebben. “This is the last spawning grounds of the striped bass in the province”. Valerie and Colin Hawks, local residents in Brentwood, are also concerned with the lack of precautions being taken. “Similar storage projects have failed in other parts of the country,” says Hawks. “Who is going to be responsible when the caverns fail or when our drinkwater is contaminated?”
For First Nations Bands in the area, the failure to be meaningfully consulted in the project and lack of First Nations consent, has driven their appeals. Rufus Copage, Chief of the the Sipekne'katik Band, calls the consultation process a direct violation of First Nation’s Rights. “The honour of the Crown in a nation to nation based relationship has not been met with the Alton Gas project.”
Tori Ball - Council of Canadians
(902) 452-2427
Additional Quotes
Cheryl Maloney, Sipekne’katik First Nation
“A meaningful consultation process must be done with the treaty beneficiaries of the Mikmaq members most affected by impacts of Alton gas project.The risk of irreparable harm to the last striped bass spawning river in NS would require the highest duties on the consultation threshold and would require deep consultation and/ or consent.
We’re not talking about a duty or a veto power - we’re talking about a responsibility. The Mi’kmaq, and our people, have a responsibility to our territory. And when settlers came here, and we welcomed them,we shared that responsibility with them. We’re treaty partners in this and this is our joint responsibility as First Nations, Nova Scotians and Canadians.”
Chief Bob Gloade,
Millbrook First Nation
“There has been a lack of community engagement in this process to have our community members concerns addressed in a proper manner. This jeopardizes our rights for food social and ceremonial purposes as this river is the last spawning area  for striped bass in the province and has our community concerned. Also there is much more needed discussions on the risk on the pipeline and salt caverns which has not been properly addressed.
If anything negative happens, with the discharge, with the caverns, or with anything to do with this project, who is going to be responsible?”
Art Rebben, 
Striped Bass Association
“Our main concern is the health of the river, and what’s going to happen with the fish and species of the river. When we looked at the science that Alton Gas has used, we noticed some inconsistencies with the studies they have done and private studies.
Despite our requests, Alton Gas would not meet with the Striped Bass Association. We’re made up of community members, fishermen, biologists, scientists - all people who have a history on the river and a lot of knowledge of the river. Yet they wouldn’t meet with us.”
Willy Courtney, Shubenacadie River Commercial Fishermen’s Association


“As a commercial fishing association, we asked for a consultation back in 2014 from DNR and NS Environment. We were told that if we had any concerns with the project, we needed to go talk to Alton Gas and ask for answers.
Here you have a commercial fishery, fishing in a zone they’ve fished for years and years, and suddenly you have a restricted zone and we don’t get any say in it.”
Colin and Valerie Hawks, Residents of Brentwood


“Alton Gas has been fraudulent in the reports they submitted to our government offices. We believe that we, as residents of Brentwood, have been rendered as inconsequential to the process by the misleading information submitted by Alton Gas to the various provincial government departments.”
Robin Tress,
Ecology Action Centre


“This project is fraught with environmental risks that are inadequately understood it addressed.
The province has approved this project despite several identified data gaps regarding fishes life cycles and toxicity tolerances, and next to no meaningful consultation with the public. 
Without a more complete understanding of the risks involved and how we may avoid them, we cannot allow this project to go forward.”
Tori Ball,
Council of Canadians
“The Council of Canadians fights for environmental and water justice. We recognize our freshwater resources as part of a shared commons and we have a shared responsibility to protect them. 
Water is a human right. We find that the risks posed to local resident’s drinking water to contamination is in direct violation of that right.”
Additional resources
Sipekne’katik To Decide Next Steps In Alton Gas Storage Opposition (kukukwes -- Independent Indigenous News In Atlantic Canada)
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