KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – For a long time now Alton Gas water protectors and researchers Rachael Greenland-Smith and Dale Poulette have advocated on behalf of the Shubenacadie River and all the creatures that live in and around it, as well as the Mi’kmaq people who traditionally hunted and fished the area and never surrendered the land.
The two activists lived near the Alton Gas site along the river until a court injunction forced them to move. Meanwhile, their ongoing research and Freedom of Information requests have revealed much about the province’s efforts to keep the secretive project alive.
At this time the two are calling on the Nova Scotia Department of Environment to suspend the Alton Gas Industrial Approval, effectively halting the proposed dumping of large quantities of brine in the river. They hope allies will join them in that call.
One part of their case rests with a recent legal decision.
In March the Nova Scotia Supreme Court overturned the Environment minister’s approval of the Alton Gas project because consultation with Sipekne’katik First Nation ignored treaty rights and Aboriginal title. Alton Gas must now resume consultations for 120 days, or until both parties are satisfied.
“The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has said the consultation wasn’t done correctly. That’s why we say it’s time for the province to suspend all work, so people can feel comfortable knowing that they’re not going to start brining any moment,” says Greenland-Smith.
Another case related to the three Grandmothers arrested at the Alton Gas site last year also has treaty rights at its core, another reason to suspend the project at least until that case is decided, they say.
There is a second legal obstacle that strengthens the case for an immediate provincial suspension order.
Through Freedom of Information requests Greenland-Smith and Poulette have established that Alton Gas cannot release brine into the Shubenacadie River without contravening current Environment Canada guidelines.
This was confirmed when Environment Canada announced last year that it will develop regulations around brine releases into the Shubenacadie River. Without its very own custom-made regulations the Alton Gas project would be doomed, but public consultation on the new regulations has not even started yet.
All this means it’s time for the province to face reality and halt the project for now.
This takes public pressure, and that’s where allies come in.
“We need as many people to hold them accountable in terms of suspending the industrial approval at this point. We’ve all been raising these issues for close to 10 years, and now they’re being proven by the Supreme Court and by the Federal Government. How many more times do they need to be told that,” says Poulette.
“Environment and Climate Change Canada hasn’t even advanced the file. The Notice of Intent came out over a year ago and they haven’t been able to move the new regulations forward. And then the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia says the consultation wasn’t done correctly. It really shows that this environmental assessment isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It’s time for the province to take responsibility and recognize publicly that Alton Gas can’t start dumping the brine into the river. We need that to be publicly announced. It’s only fair,” says Greenland-Smith.
See also: Alton Gas: it ain’t over til it’s over
Please let Environment Minister Gordon Wilson know that now is the time to suspend the Alton Gas Industrial Approval. Click here to see a sample letter.
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