Sunday, 20 October 2019
Environment featured

Dale Andrew Poulette and Rachael Greenland-Smith: The fight to save the Shubenacadie River

Alton Natural Gas Storage Lp is not safe for the environment. The brine the company intends to release into the Shubenacadie River is acutely toxic to life. 

On February 25, 2019 Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a Notice of Intent, which confirms that the brine Alton Gas plans to release into the river is a deleterious substance according to the Fisheries Act and prohibited by Section 36(3). The project as currently planned is against the law. Both the Province of Nova Scotia and Alton Gas have maintained that this project is safe for the environment when it clearly is not.

For the last 6 years, there has been a steady opposition to Alton Gas from the public. The community is fighting tooth and nail to protect Treaty Rights, fish and fish habitat, the Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon, and the Shubenacadie River itself. The Alton Gas project poses a threat to all of these things.

See also: Dale Andrew Poulette to NS Utility and Review Board: The Alton Gas project is a direct violation of Treaty rights

Members of the community of Brentwood have raised serious concerns over the prospect of living on top of the gas caverns and near the above-ground gas piping facilities.

Community members, environmentalists and Mi’kmaq agree that projects like Alton Gas promote further fossil fuel exploration, extraction and development, locally and regionally. This project is not compatible with the current climate emergency and will hinder our ability to address the greatest crisis that has faced humanity in modern times. While the climate considerations are serious, the report we wrote focuses on the legality and harm of the planned brine release into the Shubenacadie River.

Countering a flawed project approval process

We are asking the province of Nova Scotia to suspend all permits because they were granted based on false premises. We are asking for a public inquiry and a review of the actions taken with regards to this project.

In early 2007, Alton Gas fled an Environmental Assessment (EA) registration document with Nova Scotia Environment. Through Freedom of Information requests, we can see the government response in the form of comments on the draft EA. The comments address specifc scientifc concerns by various departments of government. The process allows the proponent, Alton Gas, to respond to the concerns and adapt design plans if required. 

In response to the draft EA, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, and Nova Scotia Environment and Labour expressed concerns regarding the legality of Alton Gas’ plans and the impacts on the environment. 

Many legitimate concerns remain unaddressed to this day. Specifically, ECCC explains section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the permitting and depositing of deleterious substances in water frequented by fish. 

Based on these comments and concerns, the Minister of Nova Scotia Environment rejected the assessment in 2007 and requested more information.

On the second attempt, Alton Gas’ EA is approved on Dec. 18, 2007. The project gains NS Ministerial Approval with Conditions, but the same concerns about the deposition of deleterious substances remain. 

Alton Gas should have been aware that the project would be out of compliance, but failed to change their plan. Nova Scotia Environment was aware that the brine discharge required ECCC oversight and scrutiny. 

This is supported by condition 2.1(B) of the environmental assessment, which explicitly states that ECCC oversight and approval was required for the brine discharge.

Read the full report written by long time water protectors Dale Andrew Poulette and Rachael Greenland-Smith. There is also an appendix to the report containing timelines and government documents acquired through Freedom of Information requests.

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