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Council of Canadians at highway protest to defend Shubenacadie River

Photo by @NSShadesofGreen

The Council of Canadians participated in a highway protest today against the Alton Natural Gas Storage LP proposal.

The company, a subsidiary of Calgary-based AltaGas Ltd., has proposed creating storage facilities for natural gas by drilling three wells in underground salt caverns near the rural community of Alton, which is about 75 kilometres north of Halifax. The idea is that the wells would be used to store natural gas to hedge against higher natural gas prices in the winter. The project would include two 12-kilometre pipelines. One would be used to pump water from the Shubenacadie River estuary to flush the salt out of the caverns (to make way for the gas to be stored) and the other for transporting the resulting salt brine mixture into storage ponds that would be built beside an estuary in Fort Ellis (and then discharged back into the river).

The CBC reports, “A group of people protesting the Alton natural gas storage project caused some traffic delays on Highway 102 near Stewiacke, N.S., Saturday afternoon. Demonstrators were handing out information pamphlets about the project to drivers on the southbound lane near Exit 11. …Organizers of the protest say the main concern is about the release of salty water from drilling the underground caverns into the Shubenacadie River system. …[Local resident Colin Hawks] said residents as well as people from the Ecology Action Centre, the Council of Canadians, Amnesty International and First Nations are participating.”

There are Twitter reports of lots of friendly honks and waves.

A primary concern is the release of salty water from the caverns into the Shubenacadie River system.

Hawks says, “They can never be filled back in. They’re 30-storey building sized holes and they want to put up to 18 of them in and so is that going to affect water tables? …There’s no fixing your water table, there’s no fixing the river and or the ecosystem affected by brine and or caverns.”

The provincial government approved the gas storage proposal in January.

Numerous groups, included the Council of Canadians, immediately appealed that decision in February which forced the company to temporarily halt its construction in early April.

On April 23, the provincial environment minister dismissed the last two of those six appeals.

On May 2, Global News reported, “Members of Indian Brook First Nation say they’ve filed an appeal in Nova Scotia Supreme Court to stop a gas storage facility currently under construction north of their community in Fort Ellis. Sipekne’katik Band Chief Rufus Copage said the community’s legal team is also trying to get an injunction to stop work on the site as soon as possible.”

In late May, the Council of Canadians participated in the Mi’kmaki Water Walk 2016 across seven Mi’kmaq Districts to raise awareness of this issue. The walk for the Shubenacadie River in Sipekne’katik district started on Saturday May 14 at the mouth of the Shubenacadie River in Maitland, Nova Scotia and concluded on May 21 where the Shubenacadie River flows into the Grand Lake at Oakfield Provincial Park.