As the construction season is beginning and Alton Gas workers have been appearing on site again, there has been a lot of talk about the company’s permits. A number of permits and permissions have been granted, but a number of conditions of the project have yet to be met.
People have been fighting Alton Gas for years, rain or shine, and are showing no signs of slowing! Photo: April Maloney
- Alton Gas does not have all the permissions necessary to complete the project. They may not start brining until these conditions are met.
- The mixing channel is full of mud, and this means that a key condition of one approval is not complete. Alton Gas has not made a plan to make their brine mixing plan work, or had that plan approved by the appropriate government bodies.
- The gas pipeline side of the project has not yet met any of the conditions of its approval.
- Alton Gas is not a done deal.
First, remember that the project was split into two parts for environmental assessment (EA) purposes – the creation of the caverns is one assessment, and the pipeline and movement of natural gas is the other. It’s worth stating here that this is not the way environmental assessments are usually done – the Environment Act is based on a ‘one project, one assessment’ principle. So splitting this project in two is already unusual.
The cavern EA was approved in 2007 with conditions, and the pipeline EA was approved in 2013 with conditions. These conditions are critical, and they must be met before the company can go forward with a few key pieces of work. To be clear, to date these conditions have not been met.
While it is true that Alton Gas was granted an ‘operational permit’ to start the work of creating the caverns (this is the ‘brining’ everyone talks about), they have failed to meet a major condition of the general approval, which was to manage salinity levels. In other words, the project’s approval is conditional upon Alton Gas’s ability to dilute the brine.
The mixing channel intended to dilute the brine is full of mud, and as a result can’t do its job. So even though it is technically true Alton Gas has the permit to continue, they still have to solve the dilution problem to meet this condition of the approval. And that’s just the policy side of things – in reality, the brine outflow pipes are buried in mud, so Alton Gas has a major physical barrier to starting brining.
The gas pipeline side of the project has even more conditions that need to be met. There are about a dozen conditions on this side of the project, some of which include major discussions with the provincial government about things like wetland alterations and studies, Crown land agreements, groundwater studies, emergency planning, and wilderness area compensation. None of these conditions have been met yet. Most of them will take months of discussion to complete, and there are opportunities for us to engage in some of the discussions.
Beyond the conditions of the environmental assessments, the Utility and Review Board (UARB) presents some more hoops for Alton Gas to jump through. This is a body that regulates utilities like power and oil & gas, and has some power to adjudicate, or make judgements about how to address certain issues or right certain wrongs related to utilities. Alton Gas has to go through a process to gain the UARB’s approval for the pipeline, and this process will include public hearings and participation.
Alton Gas does not have all the permits to go ahead with their work, and they have not met the conditions of the approval granted by Nova Scotia Environment to create the caverns. Aside from permits, they have not received consent from treaty rights holders in the Sipekne’katik district of Mi’kma’ki, and have done nothing to address the many risks of this project. Furthermore, we believe that this project is a risk to our water, climate, and collective rights, and we will continue supporting grassroots Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous activists until we succeed in stopping this project.
Join us in our ongoing resistance against Alton Gas! Join the Facebook group for updates, attend the fundraiser on May 26th, and come to the Peace and Friendship Alliance meeting on June 3rd to help plan our next steps.
*originally posted as a blog on canadians.org*