Federal government custom-tailors regulations to benefit corporate interests
February 11, 2020
Nova Scotia – This morning, the Council of Canadians together with Mi’kmaq grassroots grandmothers and community researchers shared documents that show the Alton Gas Project is on a path to break the Fisheries Act by depositing high concentration brine into fish-bearing waters.
The company, Alton Gas LP, is proposing to create caverns in a large salt deposit to fill with extremely high pressure natural gas. The caverns would be created through solution mining – the company will drill wells into the salt deposit and dissolve the salt with water from the Shubenacadie River. The resulting brine would be about eight times saltier than seawater and would be piped back into the river. This project has been vigorously opposed by Mi’kmaq rights holders for years, both at the project site and in court.
The documents, obtained by community researchers through access to information requests, reveal that the federal government knows about this threat. Instead of challenging Alton Gas to simply follow the existing Fisheries Act, the federal government is choosing to pursue new regulations that would accommodate the corporation by weakening environmental standards related to this project. The provincial government has issued permits to Alton Gas that are conditional upon the company following all relevant law – which documents show it would not.
“We filed for hundreds of documents over the years to prove what we already knew with our common sense: this project is bad news for the river,” said Rachael Greenland-Smith, one of the grassroots researchers who obtained these documents. Among the findings is a 2016 toxicology report from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) that acknowledges that this project would violate the Fisheries Act, and a 2017 memo noting that Alton Gas met with ECCC to suggest some ways the company “could operate while meeting their obligations under the Fisheries Act.”
“This is evidence that the federal government knows this project would harm fish,” said grassroots grandmother and water protector Darlene Gilbert. “There’s no way around it – a harm to fish is a harm to the treaty right to fish.”
In 2018, Alton Gas’s parent company AltaGas lobbied Environment and Climate Change Canada 22 times about this project. At the beginning of 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada started the process of creating new regulations under the Fisheries Act explicitly to enable the Alton Gas project.
At a provincial level, Alton Gas requires an Industrial Approval granted by Nova Scotia Environment. This approval comes with a long list of conditions and requires the company to be compliant with all relevant federal, provincial and municipal laws. Newly public documents show this project is not in line with the Fisheries Act, and therefore would not meet the conditions of its provincial approval.
“This is corporate capture at its most dangerous,” said Robin Tress, Climate Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Corporations shouldn’t be able to change any law that doesn’t suit them and our elected representatives shouldn’t bend to corporate will. It’s time for Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister to cancel Alton Gas’s permits and for the federal government to halt the process of making new regulations under the Fisheries Act.”