Monday, 16 December 2019
Environment Media release

Media Release: Mi’kmaq and concerned Nova Scotian groups caravan to greet Trudeau at NS Liberal AGM

St. FX University, Antigonish, NS

Saturday, May 25th, 2019 , Time: 4:00 pm

Location: TBD

The Mi’kmaq and allies will converge to St. FX,  joining Extinction rebellion, demanding Prime Minister Trudeau withdraw plans to provide “Industry ordered Regulations” on allowing a regulatory exemption to Alton Gas to kill Fish.  The “Kill the Regs, not the Fish” movement is equating the lobby efforts of Alton gas to the same scenario played out with SNC Lavalin and the lobbied for “ Deferred Prosecution Agreements.”

The group also demands Premiere McNeil to review any potential overlap of jurisdiction of these “ proposed Fishery Act exemptions” in the interest of both provincial and federal species at Risk legislation.   The proposed regulations disregard higher statutory laws such as the Species at Risk Act, and constitutional rights and duties. Federal regulations should not override Species at Risk Statutory law or trample and by pass Constitutional rights and duties owed to Aboriginal peoples in Canada and in this instance the Mi’kmaq people.   

The SCC decision of R. V. Simon (1986) Has already found the Mi’kmaq people were protected to hunt, fish and establish a truck house on the Sipeknekatik River and any regulations under Canadian statutes must abide by the constitution and Supreme Court of Canada.  Therefore, Treaty and Constitution of Canada trumps “mere” regulations.

To continue the regulatory route on behalf of Alton Gas is against the rule of law and the honour of the crown.  

BACKGROUND

Alton Gas’ models show highly salty brine waste being released directly into a side channel of the Sipeknekatik every day, at a strength of up to 260 ppt, the equivalent of 3,000 tons of hard salt (along with other minerals) over a period of at least two to three years per cavern.  Alton first claimed no harm to fish, but after FOIPOP request, we now see there will be “fish kills” by the release of brine mixture. Therefore, Alton switched lobby efforts to allow for fish kills under the federal Fisheries Act.

THE PROPOSED REGS

Back in February, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) quietly added a notice to their website, announcing their intent to create regulations under the Fisheries Act, just for Alton Gas.

Section 36(3) prohibits the depositing of “deleterious substances” into fish-bearing waters, and these regulations would effectively exempt Alton Gas from having to meet the prohibition against depositing a “deleterious substance” into fish-bearing waters.

In other words, the proposed regulations would allow Alton Gas to harm (or even kill) fish in the Sipekne’katik River.

If allowed to happen, these will be the first regulations proposed under the Fisheries Act’s prohibition created expressly for one company.

Allowing this to happen would not only threaten to impact Mi’kmaq treaty rights and the health of the Sipekne’katik River, it could also set a slippery precedent for made-to-order regulations for other projects that skirt meaningful consultation and put people and the environment at risk.

ON CONSULTATION

The Forward Regulatory Plan that ECCC has put forward offers only the bare minimum of required public engagement: a 30-day comment period after publishing proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette.  Completely by passing Indigenous and constitutional duties but classifying the “fish kill exemption” as a regulatory matter.

Other relatively minor amendments currently being proposed under the Fisheries Act require things like pre-consultation discussion documents and public information sessions before draft regulations are published in the Canada Gazette. Even small amendments often involve 60- or 90-day comment periods.

THE BRINE

Alton Gas’ EA documents and public information gives the impression that there would be no fish passage into the so-called “mixing channel”, and the salt concentration monitoring point was set at the outside edge of the channel rather than the point of release.  The Environmental Assessments previously done were completed with false science/ lack of complete information or information not shared to the public and or possibly the Department of Environment and should be disregarded and reassessed.

FOIPOPed documents revealed that ECCC compliance staff visited the mixing channel in April 2016 and right away discovered fish bearing waters, and therefore the brine would be considered deleterious and subject the Fisheries Act 36(3) prohibition.

ECCC requires that the compliance point be at the point of the release, so a “deleterious substance” is measured right where it comes out of the pipe, which could be as high as 260 ppt.

The highest natural occurring salt concentrations in the river more like 28ppt.

An ECCC toxicologist set a compliance point of 40 ppt (again this had to be FOIPOPED).

ECCC’s notice of intent describes that “the project is designed to ensure that the salt concentration where the channel rejoins the river would not exceed the highest naturally occurring salt concentrations in the river.”  Will ECCC move the point of compliance to suit Alton Gas or keep it at the point of release?

If enacted, much like SNC Lavalin, these new regulations would set a dangerous precedent where companies like Alta Gas Ltd with millions of dollars to simply lobby the government can essentially pay for regulations that effectively exempt them from meeting this important Fisheries Act prohibition on harming and killing fish.   

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