The Shubenacadie River. Photo from Colchester County Acadian Heritage.
Concerns are being raised about 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).
The concerns that have been raised about the project include:
the effect the brine will have on the ecology of the river, including the endangered striped bass
the safety of salt cavern gas storage
the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure
the lack of consultations and transparency with the local community.
The Chronicle Herald reports, “The Mi’kmaq community claims that the project tramples on treaty and fishery rights, while native and non-natives alike say a change in the salinity level of the river could affect fish, particularly the endangered striped bass.” Earlier this month, the newspaper reported, “The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs demanded two weeks ago that the project be stopped immediately because ‘meaningful consultation has not taken place’. Mi’kmaq protesters claim their treaty and fishing rights are jeopardized by the work being done at the estuary near Fort Ellis.”
Cheryl Maloney, the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, says, “Lots of Mi’kmaq use the Shubenacadie River. There are a lot of people who should have a say when there is a potential risk to our ecosystem. And it’s irreparable.”
According to the most recent news report “work on the project remains near a standstill”. Although some unauthorized work on the project had begun, Nova Scotia energy minister Andrew Younger now says, “There won’t be any approvals at this point [including the approval needed to build a bring storage pond at the river] until the ongoing aboriginal consultations are completed or until we get through to another stage.” In late October, CBC reported, “Younger said it was well within [the province’s] rights to withhold the permit and only delayed construction work on a dyke so the Mi’kmaq could be properly consulted.”
The Council of Canadians is helping to organize a public forum on this issue on Sunday November 30 in Brookfield, which is located just 8 kilometres north of Alton. For more on that, please see the Facebook event page Forum on Proposed Alton Gas Salt Cavern Storage. A second public forum for Halifax is also being planned.
For more on this issue, please see Concerns About The Alton Natural Gas Storage Project.