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NEWS: US raises concerns about BC coal mines polluting the Kootenai-Koocanusa watersheds

The Vancouver Sun reports, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made a veiled threat to take Canada to the International Joint Commission in a dispute over plans to expand coal production in the Elk River Valley of southeastern B.C., near the Montana border. The threat was made in a letter that outlines concerns about the potential for pollution running down B.C.’s Elk and Fording rivers into two bodies of water shared by B.C. and Montana – Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenay (Kootenai) River.”

“The letter was sent to Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent in December by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She told Kent she hopes the federal and B.C. governments will support a study of the cumulative effects of existing and planned coal mine expansion in the area, mostly by Teck Resources Ltd. …The U.S. government is under pressure from Montana’s senators, who wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State in September complaining about the threat to the ‘treasured’ Kootenai-Koocanusa watersheds. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester argued mine expansion may be a violation of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. The treaty established the International Joint Commission to settle cross-border disputes involving pollution of rivers and lakes.”

“The senators wrote, ‘B.C. is evaluating each coal mine expansion individually, with no legal requirement to conduct a programmatic environmental review to delineate the cumulative water quality and aquatic life impacts from contaminant loading from all of the mines. Drainage from the Elk Valley mines present serious risks to the Kootenai Basin water quality and valued trout fisheries. It is imperative that international scrutiny be applied to the mines’ downstream impacts.'”

The Council of Canadians speaks against coal mines

We have highlighted that British Columbia has ten active coal mines and another twenty in development. We have also noted that to speed this up, Premier Christy Clark has committed $24-million to reduce ‘regulatory delays’ for new mines.

Our Comox Valley chapter has been actively raising concerns about the proposed Raven coal mine in British Columbia since 2010. In September 2011, Maude Barlow spoke at a large public forum in Courtenay in opposition to the Raven coal mine. In November 2012, the Council of Canadians formally expressed its opposition to the Raven coal mine at its annual general meeting in Nanaimo. Our Delta-Richmond chapter has also spoken against the proposed expansion of the Westshore Terminals coal port at Roberts Bank in British Columbia.

We have also commented in ‘NEWS: Carbon emissions from increased coal exports in BC would top Northern Gateway pipeline’ and ‘UPDATE: Coal threatens workers, water and the climate’.

And we have noted that Teck Resources – the company that has raised concerns from US officials in the news article above – operates a copper-zinc mine in Newfoundland that would benefit from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam and a copper-gold mine in Chile that threatens the Elqui River.

For related campaign blogs, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18476 (on the expansion of the Westshore Terminal), http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17786 (on the Council of Canadians passing a resolution opposed to the Raven coal mine), http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4919 (a December 2010 campaign blog on Comox Valley chapter honouring CoalWatch), http://canadians.org/blog/?p=10714 (on Maude Barlow speaking against the Raven coal mine), http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18438 (on coal exports leading to carbon emissions above the Northern Gateway pipeline), http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17888 (on the impacts of coal), and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18204 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18253 (both on Teck Resources).