ALTON GAS (NS): a potential disaster in slow motion

ALTON GAS (NS): a potential disaster in slow motion

Postby Oscar » Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:39 am

Alton Gas project a potential disaster in slow motion

[ http://canadians.org/blog/alton-gas-pro ... low-motion ]

March 8, 2017 - 7:12 pm

Op-ed published in Local Xpress, March 7, 2017 [ https://www.localxpress.ca/opinions/opi ... ion-551335 ]

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: 'Governments grant permits, but communities grant permission.' It’s critical that we continue to reject this project, not only to avoid its immediate consequences, but to erode the pervasive profit-at-all-costs mentality driving unsustainable development.

It has been four years since the Nova Scotia government approved Alton Gas’s plan to build a natural gas pipeline for its massive gas storage project.

Alberta-based AltaGas’s Alton Gas project plans to drill into a Colchester County salt vein about 10 kilometres northeast of Stewiacke, flush out large caverns in the salt bed and dispose of the resulting brine by dumping it into the Shubenacadie River. Once the mining is complete, the company would fill the caverns with natural gas at incredibly high pressures.

Alton Gas is a tangible example of the profit-at-all-costs mentality of our current society, despite the obvious dangers.

Luckily, due largely to the company’s brazen approach, the project is delayed [ http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scot ... m=referral ] from its proposed completion date [ https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/ea/Alton/ ... m=referral ] this year and the expected gas storage capacity is much less than was originally proposed. [ https://www.localxpress.ca/local-news/a ... ect-432939 ]

This project is cringe-worthy on many levels, but there are four key problems: water, climate, indigenous rights, and public control of natural resources.

Alton Gas vs. water

This project threatens water at every stage of its construction and operation. Much of the opposition to the project has centred on the Shubenacadie River [ http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/going-ag ... m=referral ] and the impact the salt brine would have on the ecosystem that provides food, livelihood and culture for all people, Mi’kmaq and otherwise.

Beyond the Shubenacadie River, the pipe that would carry brine from the caverns to the river runs through 12 kilometres of farmers’ fields. Just one leak could spill up to 989,000 litres of salt brine [ https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/ea/Alton/ ... m=referral ] into farmland at a concentration 10 times higher than seawater, devastating food production, surface water and the local economy.

A 10-kilometre lateral connection line would carry natural gas from the caverns to the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline. That connector requires clearing a 20-metre strip of land for the length of the pipeline — that’s about 20 hectares of land stripped bare amid wetlands and stands of old-growth forest. It would then cross under the Stewiacke River, depriving it of critical stabilizing plant life at the steepest point along its banks. If the pipeline burst under the river, methane would bubble through the water and into the atmosphere.

Then there are the caverns themselves. Alton Gas suggests that the salt caverns would be completely sealed and leak-proof, but statistics tell us otherwise. There are only about 40 natural gas cavern storage projects in North America, with a 65 per cent incidence rate over 30 years. [ https://canadians.org/blog/unacceptable ... m=referral ]

In environmental assessment documents, [ https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/ea/Alton/ ... m=referral ] Alton Gas itself admits that leaks happen, citing one case where natural gas appeared 12 kilometres away from the storage site in a populated area, evoking my-tap-water-is-on-fire imagery. [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LBjSXW ... m=referral ] The risk of the high-pressure natural gas inside the caverns leaking into groundwater cannot be overlooked.

Alton Gas vs. climate

The link between new fossil fuel infrastructure and climate change should be obvious. We’re fast approaching Earth’s climate tipping point, and leaders ranging from the Pope to Neil Young are pleading with politicians to ditch fossil fuels in favour of renewable energies.

So why is Nova Scotia supporting this new fossil fuel project instead of a just transition to a green energy economy?

The Alton Gas development is more insidious than a single project — it is the natural gas industry’s foot in the door to expand transportation and consumption in Nova Scotia. While this project originally proposed four gas storage caverns, the company openly discussed its plans to “develop as many as 10 to 15 caverns.” [ https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/ea/Alton/ ... m=referral ] A storage facility of that size would vastly exceed Nova Scotia’s current natural gas needs, and would facilitate an export market, likely servicing liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, and would enable further fossil fuel industry expansion.

Under no circumstances are the Alton Gas project or spinoff fossil fuel developments in line with Nova Scotia’s commitments to curb emissions.

Alton Gas vs. indigenous rights

Despite government overtures about reconciliation, indigenous peoples, their values, and First Nation treaties are consistently disregarded in favour of fossil fuel extraction and transportation.

The consultation with Mi’kmaq communities was laughable, and resulted in a bitter legal case that ended in January. [ https://www.localxpress.ca/local-news/s ... nce-523547 ] The result? The Nova Scotia government, after deeply embarrassing itself, was required to revisit some aspects of the consultation with Sipekne’katik First Nation. [ http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/coloniza ... m=referral ]

If reconciliation is what Nova Scotia wants, supporting the Alton Gas project is an example of what not to do.

Alton Gas vs. your right to know

As I have alluded to above, the public has been largely excluded from the review of Alton Gas’s impact. Neighbours of the cavern sites — their front doors are only a hundred feet away — did not know about the project until nearly seven years after it was proposed. Having been left out of the original consultation process, neighbours are disputing wetland alteration permits, searching for emergency contingency plans and looking for Alton Gas’s "community liaison committee," which is rumoured to exist but nowhere to be found.

The public has been consistently kept out of decision-making in an environmental assessment process that does not value meaningful public participation.

In these ways, Alton Gas exposes what is wrong with a public decision-making framework based on profit.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Governments grant permits, but communities grant permission.” It’s critical that we continue to reject this project, not only to avoid its immediate consequences, but to erode the pervasive profit-at-all-costs mentality driving unsustainable development.

Robin Tress is an organizer with the Council of Canadians, a national social justice organization. For three years, she has been working alongside leaders from Sipekne’katik and beyond to stop Alton Gas. She’s co-organizing panel discussions about Alton Gas in multiple Nova Scotia communities, with an event in Halifax on March 27.

Tags: Alton Gas
[ http://canadians.org/tags/alton-gas ]

Robin Tress's blog
Council of Canadians Atlantic Regional Organizing Assistant
[ http://canadians.org/blogs/robin-tress ]
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Re: ALTON GAS (NS): a potential disaster in slow motion

Postby Oscar » Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:06 am

Town hall tour against Alton Gas stops in Halifax

[ http://canadians.org/media/town-hall-to ... ps-halifax ]

Media Advisory March 27, 2017

WHAT: A panel discussion about the Alton Gas project and the movement to stop it, featuring frontline Mi’kmaq land and water protectors. The speakers will focus on the risks Alton Gas poses to water, climate and energy systems, Indigenous rights, and environmental rights, and also speak about the opportunities for policy and culture changes around these issues. This panel is part of a town hall tour with another stop planned in Antigonish, and more forthcoming.

WHEN: March 27, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Dalhousie Student Union Building, McInnes Room, 6136 University Ave, Halifax

WHO: Panelists include Dorene Bernard (water protector and Sipekne’katik elder), Jim Maloney (Sipekne’katik district war chief), and Dale Poulette (treaty Truckhouse organizer [ https://www.facebook.com/groups/367128616772242/ ] ). This panel is organized by the Council of Canadians, the Canada Research Chair in Sustainability and Social Change Leadership, and Dalhousie students. -30-

Contact:

Robin Tress, Organizer with the Council of Canadians -
902 223 8526
rtress@canadians.org
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Re: ALTON GAS (NS): a potential disaster in slow motion

Postby Oscar » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:40 pm

Treaty Truckhouse update: town hall tour!

[ http://canadians.org/blog/treaty-truckh ... -hall-tour ]

March 29, 2017 - 3:09 pm

(PHOTO: I took this photo while Jim Maloney, war chief for the Sipekne'katik district of Mi'kma'ki, spoke about Alton Gas at a town hall on Monday March 27th in Halifax.)

Recently I co-hosted two events related to this topic along with partners from the grassroots of the fight against Alton Gas, a few Dalhousie University students, and the Canada Research Council on Sustainability and Social Change. The first was panel discussion on UNDRIP [ http://canadians.org/media/indigenous-l ... as-project ] and its potential impacts on resource development in Canada. Panelists Naiomi Metallic and Patti Doyle-Bedwell, both trained lawyers, spoke about the declaration from personal and professional perspectives. As you might imagine there is a lot to be said about how UNDRIP could impact resource development in Canada, but I drew a few key lessons from their talk. (If you didn’t get to attend or watch the live stream, you can see the recording here: [ https://www.facebook.com/events/1820967 ... discussion ]).

One of the articles of UNDRIP declares the right to free, prior, and informed consent. This phrase is far more powerful than I previously understood it to be. Under current Canadian law, the crown has a duty to consult with Indigenous peoples about matters that affect them, for example, a large industrial project. The key here, as Naiomi Metallic pointed out, is that this is a commitment to a process, not an outcome. If UNDRIP was meaningfully implemented, that would mean the crown would have to commit not just to process of consultation, but to the "outcome of consent". [ https://www.localxpress.ca/local-news/d ... ues-572075 ]

This seems so simple, but it was transformative to hear articulated so clearly. This lesson has been staying with me as I hosted the second event, Protectors [ https://www.facebook.com/events/1820967 ... discussion ]: cross movement resistance to Alton Gas town hall [ http://canadians.org/media/indigenous-l ... as-project ] (this is part of a tour with more events coming up!). The idea of consultation vs. consent was central to the first discussion in Halifax on Monday.

It’s clear that the idea and the value of consent is understood very differently by the Canadian and provincial governments, and Indigenous nations. While the government can complete consultation and carry on, Mi’kmaq activists know that even if the government gives permission for a project like Alton Gas, the people will fight until the bitter end to see it stopped. As one of the town hall speakers Dorene Bernard said, “If Alton Gas or the province had some and consulted us in 2003 when they started thinking about the project, they would have heard us say ‘no way’ and could have saved themselves 35 million dollars.”

I was reminded that of course consultation should happen between governments – that means the government should conduct consultation with the Mi’kmaq nation, not the company or the provincial government. Jim Maloney, war chief of the Sipekne’katik district, said on Monday, “Alton Gas or any corporation doesn’t have the authority to consult with an Indigenous nation, it has to be a government to government process. For the provincial government to direct a corporation like Alton Gas to conduct consultation right from the start is wrong. Why would we talk to a corporation?”

A popular question at the town hall was how people could support the movement to stop Alton Gas. All the speakers agreed that the growing alliances between Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous people are a key element of the movement’s success so far. “What we have is experience, and what you have is education. That’s a great combination,” said Jim Maloney.

These are just a few prominent moments of the last few weeks of work, and I’m sure I’ll continue reflecting and learning as the rest of the Stop Alton gas town hall tour unfolds.

You can watch the UNDRIP panel discussion here: [ https://www.facebook.com/events/1861683 ... discussion ]

and the Stop Alton Gas town hall here: [ https://www.facebook.com/events/1820967 ... discussion ]

Stay tuned for the Antigonish Stop Alton Gas town hall on Thursday March 30th, and future events that are in the works!
[ https://www.facebook.com/events/1830902027155529/ ]


Tags:

Alton Gas
[ http://canadians.org/tags/alton-gas ]

Water
[ http://canadians.org/tags/water ]

UNDRIP
[ http://canadians.org/tags/undrip ]

climate
[ http://canadians.org/tags/climate ]

Robin Tress's blog
Council of Canadians' Atlantic Regional Organizing Assistant
[ http://canadians.org/blogs/robin-tress ]
Oscar
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Posts: 6601
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Re: ALTON GAS (NS): a potential disaster in slow motion

Postby Oscar » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:02 pm

Council to hold public forum with water protectors defending the Shubenacadie River

[ https://canadians.org/blog/council-hold ... adie-river ]

March 30, 2017 - 7:40 am

(PHOTO: Sipekne'katik war chief Jim Maloney, water protector Dorene Bernard, Treaty Truckhouse organizer Dale Poullette, Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress. Photo by Council of Canadians organizer Angela Giles.)


The Council of Canadians has organized two recent public forums on the Alton Gas Natural Gas Storage Project in Nova Scotia (Alton Gas, Site C, and Indigenous Consent on March 21, and Stop Alton Gas Town Hall Tour - Halifax on March 27) and will hold a third public forum this evening in Antigonish. Halifax-based Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress is both organizing and hosting these events.

Alton Natural Gas Storage LP, a subsidiary of Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd., wants to build underground caverns to store natural gas near the Shubenacadie River on Sipekne’katik territory near the rural communities of Alton and Stewiake, which are situated about 75 kilometres north of Halifax.

The outreach for tonight's public forum explains, "Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous communities near the Shubenacadie River have been organizing resistance to the planned Alton Gas project for several years. This project would create massive underground natural gas storage caverns, see hundreds of thousands of tonnes of salt dumped into the Shubenacadie River in a matter of months, and would risk water contamination, methane leaks, and expansion of the fossil fuel industry in Atlantic Canada. The project was given the go ahead by the McNeil government despite a lack of consultation, multiple failures by the company, and clear and united opposition by the affected communities."

It also notes, "When confronted with their failure to gain consent for this project by the Sipekne’katik Band Council, the McNeil Government's lawyer declared the Sipekne’katik Mi’kmaq a 'conquered people', so their consent was not required for the project to go forward. A court decision on January 28th ruled otherwise, and has opened the way for Mi’kmaq and settler community members from across this province to speak out about protecting our rivers. The Protectors speaking tour focuses on how Alton Gas is a crisis at the intersection of movements to protect water, exercise Indigenous rights and culture, end further fossil fuel development, and strengthen public participation in environmental decision making."

The Stop Alton Gas Town Hall Tour features Dorene Bernard (Grassroots Grandmother, water protector, Mi'kma'ki water walk organizer) and Dale Poullette (Water protector, Treaty Truckhouse organizer). The public forum in Halifax on March 27 also featured Jim Maloney (Sipekne'katik war chief).

Local XPress reports, "Despite company assurances that gradually releasing 1.3 million cubic metres of salt into the river system over a two- to three-year period would not significantly change the salinity level of the Fundy tidal river, the Mi’kmaq and other project detractors say that it will negatively affect all of the fish and plant species in the river system. Poulette said a lot of projects will negatively affect the environment and the people if somebody doesn’t stand up against them."

That article adds, "Maloney said company musings about more than a dozen caverns on the 80 hectares of land purchased in Brentwood just do not make sense. 'For anybody to believe that you can put 20 caverns under the ground and pump that much salt into the river and everything would be good, it’s no wonder they don’t want consultation', Maloney said. 'Who would believe that? Homeowners and Mi’kmaq wouldn’t agree to it. If the fish could talk, they wouldn’t agree to it either.'"

And it notes, "Bernard said Alton Gas and other similar projects are forms of environmental racism. 'As women, it’s our cultural responsibility to protect the water for everyone', Bernard said. Her fear is that the Alton Gas project would lead to more caverns and possible fracking of gas in the Gays River area. 'We have to cut off the head of the snake now', she said. 'What we do today is for future generations. We don’t want their (Alton Gas) money, a million dollars for a hockey rink or an elders home. We want them to go.'"

For a blog about the Alton Gas, Site C, and Indigenous Consent public forum, please click here:
[ http://canadians.org/blog/council-canad ... rip-canada ]

For Tress' blog on the Alton Gas Town Hall in Halifax earlier this week, click here:
[ http://canadians.org/blog/treaty-truckh ... -hall-tour ]

To see the Facebook promotion for tonight's event, click here:
[ https://www.facebook.com/events/1830902027155529/ ]

For numerous blogs about the Alton Gas situation, click here:
[ http://canadians.org/search/node/alton%20gas ]

The Council of Canadians has been working with allies in opposition to the Alton Gas project since November 2014.

Brent Patterson's blog
Political Director of the Council of Canadians
[ https://canadians.org/blogs/brent-patterson ]
Oscar
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