What is the Alton Gas Project?
The Alton Gas project proposes to drill 13 – 18 unconventional salt caverns about 1km deep to store massive amounts of natural gas in the Stewiake region of Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia).
The process of creating caverns produces salty brine waste. Alton Gas plans on dumping this brine into the Shubenacadie estuary.
At full operation, Alton gas will be releasing aprox. 10,000m3 of brine (3,170 tonnes of hard salt) into the river system each day.
It will then create a pipeline, and fill these caverns with high pressure natural gas.
For more information view Alton Gas’ application for a Permit
Why is this a horrible idea?
- Huge negative impacts on fish and wildlife, including the endangered Atlantic Salmon. People from the surrounding communities fish in the river, and gather medicines here. The input of this extreme amount of salt into the river would surely have disastrous consequences. The studies that have been done examining the impact of this project on the river focused on striped bass eggs and larvae and left out endangered Atlantic Salmon, Tommycod, American eel, Atlantic sturgeon, and Atlantic Mud piddock.
- The input of this huge amount of salt will surely also have negative impacts on the surrounding areas drinking water.
- Toxins used in the process: Project documents give passing mention to extremely toxic substances like benzene, toluene, and xylene, and how they will be disposed of. These compounds are highly dangerous to human health and the disposal plans must be fully developed and carefully communicated to area residents. The existing disposal plan is insufficient.
- Failure rate of natural gas storage caverns: The risks of groundwater contamination have not been studied. Caverns are being drilled close to local homes and directly into the water table their wells draw from. Salt cavern gas storage has a 40% failure rate globally and a 65% failure rate in the U.S. These failures often lead to the release and spillage of toxic chemicals into the air, soil and water of local communities. Visit this risk analysis by D. Rob Mackenzie for more information.
What has the opposition been so far?
- As soon as residents in the area and community members in Sipekne’katik and Millbrook First Nations found out about the Alton Gas proposal, they rose in protest to it. Since that time there have been many protests alongside highways and in front of Province House.
- In September 2016 a truck house has been built alongside the river, right next to the site, in accordance with Treaty rights in the Peace and Friendship Treaty. Fishing and conservation efforts are also happening at the site.
- In May 2017, Mi’kmaq water protectors created a treaty camp at the entrance to Alton’s worksite, to prevent Alton Gas from working on the project. The treaty camp and the truck house are both active.
Meanwhile, in court…
- Currently the Sipekne’katik Band, the Striped Bass Association, the Shubenacadie River Commercial Fishermens Association, and a Brentwood Road residents association, consisting of homeowners who live near the cavern located between Stewiacke and Brookfield, all appealed the Environment Department permits. All of these appeals to the minister were denied. Sipekne’katik took its appeal to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, which ruled in its favour.
- Sipekne’katik asked the court for a stay to stop Alton Gas from continuing work during the Supreme Court hearing. The request for a stay was denied.
- The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been asked to halt the project and to protect the Bay of Fundy under the Species at Risk act. The request has been denied.
- The outcome of the Sipekne’katik court case was neither a win nor a loss – the court decided that a very particular piece of consultation needed to be re-done by the provincial government
- Now, while that consultation is worked out, there is still no stop work order, and Alton Gas can continue with the project.
No must mean NO! We need more than a duty to consult – we need a commitment to achieving consent. We need to go further than asking Sipekne’katik First Nation for their opinion, it means listening when they say no!
Treaty rights must be respected and upheld. This river must be preserved not only for today, but for future generations.