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NEWS: BP project threatens Fernie, BC groundwater

The Canadian Press reports that, “As oil continues to gush from a BP wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico, critics say the company has quietly broken ground on a controversial project in B.C.’s Rocky Mountains.”

MIST MOUNTAIN COALBED METHANE PROJECT

Coalbed methane or coalbed gas is a form of natural gas extracted from underground coalbeds.

“Opponents of the Mist Mountain project say they were surprised to find that BP Canada began construction earlier this month on an exploratory well for its coalbed methane project near Fernie, B.C. The company was granted permission to conduct experimental drilling in the pristine area in southeast B.C. just a few days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.”

“Ryland Nelson of Wildsight said the project threatens one of the most important wildlife corridors in North America. The well will be drilled in the area between Banff National Park and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which stretches between Alberta and Montana, a corridor for grizzlies, wolverines and other mountain-dwelling wildlife.”

“The provincial government awarded tenure to BP Canada for the Mist Mountain project last December, over the objections of conservationists and First Nations on both sides of the border, as well as the Fernie town council.”

A THREAT TO WATER

“Those critics say there is not enough environmental oversight for the project, which they believe will impact water and wildlife in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem. The coalbed methane extraction includes reinjecting polluted water back into the ground, a process conservationists worry will contaminate ground water.”

“Graham Currie, a spokesman for the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, said the commission did an extensive review of the project and concluded that direct impacts to wildlife habitat, environment and the forest land base would be minimal. Currie said the review is a rigorous environmental assessment, but he couldn’t say how it compared to the B.C. Environmental Review process.”

A recent Associated Press article says, “Coal-bed methane is a type of natural gas typically found in underground seams saturated with water, and millions of gallons of water must be pumped out to free the gas. The water, which is high in salt, is a potential threat to the crops of downstream farmers. It is considered a pollutant under the (United States) Clean Water Act.”

The Canadian Press news report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/06/15/bc-bp-drilling-rocky-mountains.html#ixzz0r0nQ826D.