KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Environment Canada is rushing through new regulations tailor made for Alton Gas, allowing the company to release brine in the Sipekne’katik (Shubenacadie) River without enough prior public scrutiny, say two environmental organizations.
The Ecology Action Centre and East Coast Environmental Law have sent a letter to the federal department of Environment and Climate Change, urging it to adopt a process more in line with similar regulatory changes the department has initiated in comparable areas.
“When we checked around, we noticed that even for more minor regulatory changes the department offers longer comment periods. They also offer discussion documents and information sessions before a notice is posted in the Gazette,” says Sadie Beaton, Community Conservation Research Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.
“These proposed regulations essentially describe an exception to the Fisheries Act, and that particular section that is affected is really important in terms of protecting our fisheries and our Treaty fisheries,” says Beaton.
The letter also questions a departmental statement suggesting that consultations with Mi’kmaq rights holders, and other members of the public are ongoing.
“We really poked around and can’t find anybody who has been consulted,” Beaton says. “All this is happening while there is all this public controversy around the adequacy of the consultations underpinning the provincial approvals.”
The two organizations never received a response to an earlier letter to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, sent on May 1st.
The notice in the Gazette will kick off a 30-days comment period, allowing the public to provide written input. Even that 30 days is only half of the more typical 60 days typical when new regulations are proposed.
“Environment Canada has known since 2016 that if the project were to go forward a deleterious substance would be released, and some kind of compliance action would have to happen, so why now, and why the rush, nobody seems to know,” says Beaton.
In an article written for the National Observer in late March reporter Lindsay Jones describes intense lobbying efforts of federal bureaucrats and members of parliament by AltaGas, the parent company of Alton Gas.
In the article Lindsay draws comparisons with the intense lobbying that occurred in what was to become the SNC Lavalin scandal.
“Once again, it’s a pattern with this Liberal government. They side with rich corporations instead of protecting marine life and the ecosystems they depend on which is the very goal of the legislation,” the article quotes NDP environment and climate change critic Alexandre Boulerice.
See also: Alton Gas: it ain’t over til it’s over
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