Democracy definition: A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supported this definition. “Times have changed, my friends,” Trudeau told the Calgary Petroleum Club last year. “Social licence is more important than ever. Government may be able to issue permits. But only communities can grant permission.” He wasn’t Prime Minister then. Now that he is, the rules have changed. On January 20, 2016, the Liberal government announced the 5 principles of the new interim environmental assessment process:
- No project proponent will be asked to return to the starting line — project reviews will continue within the current legislative framework and in accordance with treaty provisions, under the auspices of relevant responsible authorities and Northern regulatory boards;
- Decisions will be based on science, traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and other relevant evidence;
- The views of the public and affected communities will be sought and considered;
- Indigenous peoples will be meaningfully consulted, and where appropriate, impacts on their rights and interests will be accommodated; and
- Direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions linked to the projects under review will be assessed.
There isn’t any mention in the article that it will be only communities that can grant permission.
Nova Scotia has just learned on the 28th of January, 2016. In communication between First Nations Sipekne’katik and Mi’kmaq bands over the Alton Gas Project Nova Scotia Energy Minister Michel Samson announced that the province has approved a permit by Alta Gas to operate a natural gas storage facility in Stewiacke, N.S. He said:
“Government believes the project is safe and does not threaten the environment.”
The question remains about how much effort was put into the consulting process. Watch the video below of the Alta gas meeting in Millbrook about Alton gas storage Jan. 26, 2016.
As mentioned in another article, Alton, Nova Scotia is at risk of Methane gas leaks which is proposed to be stored in salt caverns being built. Despite assurances it will be absolutely safe, there aren’t any guarantees. There have been some very serious leaks causing explosions and fires and although these represent extreme failures, constant leaking occurs. In an EPA report, it said that in 2012, twenty-seven percent of the leaked emissions were from transmission and storage. Forty-five percent from production, sixteen percent from distribution and twelve percent from processing. Similar failures are reported across the globe, not just the U.S., so is it any wonder the safety of the Alton Gas project needs to be questioned?
Have a look at the video clip below where an explosion at the Pemex natural gas distribution plant in Reynosa, Mexico on September 18, 2012 ripped across the lot . At least 26 people died in the explosion and the fire that followed — another 46 were injured in the blast.
Best case scenario is that there isn’t an explosion of course. But as we’ve heard in the news, the Methane gas leaking in California is causing evacuations and sickness. DOGOnews reported on Jan 10, 2016 that “… over 2,800 families from the Porter Ranch Community in Los Angeles have been forced to flee their homes to escape the adverse effects of the odorless gas. What’s worse is that they have no idea when they will be able to return.”
It isn’t only people that can sick. Several species that live in and around the river can get sick and die as well. Through a canal system, it’s setup so that the brine is released with the tidal flow from the Cobequid Bay. Although the brine is a salt solution, the Nova Scotia Striped Bass Association feels these releases could have a negative impact on the fish during spawning season. It also begs the question about toxic blooms of algae that could grow with the increase salt discharge. It would absorb oxygen out of the water and leave the fish more susceptible to disease.
In an article by the Council of Canadians titled “The Unacceptable Risk of Alton Gas Storage” it says, “An independent quantitative risk analysis done in 2015 by Rob Mackenzie for a similar project in Seneca Lake looked at the risk of underground hydrocarbon storage, including salt cavern storage. His risk analysis concluded that salt cavern storage poses an unacceptable risk due to the medium likelihood and extremely serious to serious consequences.”
Environmental racism essentially means that hazards, like toxic waste, pollution or dumps are placed near low-income or minority communities. The Alton Gas Project certainly fits the description. The permits have been issued to begin the project. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any justice. Justice and democracy should go hand-in-hand, but if they do… they only go to those that can afford it.