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Council of Canadians supports Sipekne’katik defence of the Shubenacadie River

Council of Canadians organizer Tori Ball at the proposed brine storage site.

The Council of Canadians is helping to oppose a plan by Alton Natural Gas Storage LP to store natural gas near the rural community of Alton, which is situated about 75 kilometres north of Halifax.

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. 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 also 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).

Yesterday, the Nova Scotia government gave its approval to the project.

But Sipekne’katik Chief Rufus Copage says, “My community members are prepared to protect their river. They’re the ones that are going to be affected by it; it’s not me, it’s not my council, it’s the whole community. And it’s not just the community, it’s all the people all around us.” With 2,555 members, the Sipekne’katik is the second largest Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia.

The Coast reports, “[A] letter addressed to premier Stephen McNeil (also the minister of aboriginal affairs), energy minister Michel Samson and environment minister Margaret Miller, asks the government to suspend further approvals so that First Nations communities can consult their members about the project and demands up-to-date evaluations and cumulative risk assessments for the natural gas storage project. …Along with the four signatories [the East Hants Fracking Opposition Group, the Striped Bass Association, the Subenacadie River Commercial Fishing Association and concerned citizens in Brentwood and Alton], the letter is supported by the Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Centre, the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club Foundation, the Nova Scotia Fracking Research and Action Coalition, the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and Divest Dalhousie.”

That letter states, “The Sipekne’katik and Millbrook First Nations informed Premier McNeil of their plans to hold a referendum on the issue of whether to allow natural gas storage and the dumping of brine waste into the river system. We applaud and support this bold decision by the Sipekne’katik community to demand meaningful community engagement.”

The news article also highlights, “
Underground salt cavern storage is a process some call environmentally unacceptable. Tori Ball, with the Council of Canadians, says there is a 65 percent failure rate for American underground natural gas storage facilities. Those incidents can cause extreme property loss, fires, explosions and residential evacuations. And that’s not even taking into account the potential impacts of all the brine water.

To read Ball’s recent blog The Unacceptable Risk of Alton Gas Storage, please click here.

Further reading
Council concerned natural gas storage proposal will harm the Shubenacadie River (Nov. 19, 2014)