Alton Gas Will Violate Universal Human Rights

Methane can decrease the amount of oxygen in the air and cause suffocation with symptoms of headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination and judgment, increased breathing rate and loss of consciousness.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?

The American Chemical Society release a report, Methane Emissions from Leak and Loss Audits of Natural Gas Compressor Stations and Storage Facilities, where researchers completed leak and loss audits for methane emissions at three natural gas compressor stations and two natural gas storage facilities. You can view the report in pdf below or download it. They only tested four sites but they discovered:

Download (PDF, 278KB)

“All sites had a combined total methane emissions rate of 94.2 kg/h, yet only 12% of the emissions total resulted from leaks. Methane slip from exhausts represented 44% of the total emissions. Remaining methane emissions were attributed to losses from pneumatic actuators and controls, engine crankcases, compressor packing vents, wet seal vents, and slop tanks. Measured values were compared with those reported in literature. Exhaust methane emissions were lower than emissions factor estimates for engine exhausts, but when combined with crankcase emissions, measured values were 11.4% lower than predicted by AP-42 as applicable to emissions factors for four-stroke, lean-burn engines. Average measured wet seal emissions were 3.5 times higher than GRI values but 14 times lower than those reported by Allen et al. Reciprocating compressor packing vent emissions were 39 times higher than values reported by GRI, but about half of values reported by Allen et al. Though the data set was small, researchers have suggested a method to estimate site-wide emissions factors for those powered by four-stroke, lean-burn engines based on fuel consumption and site throughput.”

In 2013 there were 40 salt cavern storage facilities in the United Sates and the incidence rate between 1972 and 2012 was more than 65 percent (compared to 40 percent worldwide ). Many people are concerned about the cumulative environmental and health impacts something like this would have in the Alton area.

In 2012, Global Research News reported , there was “The Bayou Corne Disaster in Louisiana” where Texas Brine had a three-mile-wide, mile-plus-deep salt deposit known as the Napoleonville, collapsed into a big sinkhole forcing the residents to evacuate.

Watch the video below that shows the sinkhole and residents reaction:

The article goes on to say:

“When you keep drilling over and over and over again, whether it’s into bedrock or into salt caverns, at some point you have fractured the integrity of this underground structure enough that something is in danger of collapsing,” observes ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber, whose work has focused on fracking and injection wells. “It’s an inherently dangerous situation.”

So far, Alton only has three caverns built out of a possible eighteen.

There are a lot of health, safety and environmental risks with the Alton Gas Project but a lot of people refuse to speak up. The company has been throwing their money around to show their good will to the community by making donations to various local groups like:

  • Brookfield Fire Department
  • Brookfield Junior B Elks Hockey Club and Truro Atom AA Bearcats
  • NSLC Adopt-a-Stream
  • Stewiacke Fire Department
  • South Colchester Minor Hockey Association

This has, of course, won over a percentage of the population but others also say:

  • They have years of experience — it’s safe
  • It will create jobs and we need them
  • Some are even scared to stand up for themselves since Bill C-51 was made law.

According to a Nova Scotia government report, ” Several at-risk fish species are present in the Shubenacadie watershed and protection of these populations and their habitats is of key concern.” The waterways used for brine discharge are the one of the key breeding grounds for striped bass in Nova Scotia which is a million dollar per year fishing industry in this province. Several people flock to the shores daily to fish for bass.

People living nearby could suffer from many symptoms if there are gas leaks. Methane can decrease the amount of oxygen in the air and cause suffocation with symptoms of headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination and judgment, increased breathing rate and loss of consciousness. There doesn’t seem to be much government support for the livelihood of people who live close to the project.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair believes the federal government shares responsibility for protection of the environment but Scott Armstrong, MP for Cumberland – Colchester – Musquodoboit Valley, when asked about support on the fracking wastewater issue in Nova Scotia replied with “Although the federal government develops the laws governing pollution, it is the province that administers the various Environmental Acts.” This makes it very clear that no help will be forthcoming, at least until a new government can be elected.

Armstrong didn’t want to discuss the issue of the Alton Gas Project. In a series of “town hall meetings” he setup between 2011-2014, the date of the last meeting on the list was October 15, 2014 but there was to be another which was scheduled for Onslow, NS November 12, 2014. The Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA) — established in 1972 — had a few questions to ask him about this project. He cancelled the meeting and it was never rescheduled.

Lenore Zann, MLA for Truro, Bible Hill, Salmon River and Millbrook is listening to the people and has concerns about the environment as well. During the Nova Scotia government question period, Oct. 16th 2014, she asked if Michel Samson, Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, would “agree to meet with Alton Gas and the Shubenacadie Band to consider export opportunities for the salt brine now that the Shubenacadie First Nation says their eel traps make the salt brine disposal site an active treaty fishing area for their people?” He replied that he would be happy to, yet there hasn’t been a meeting yet. However, Lenore Zann met with the residents and has listened to their concerns. Concerns were once again raised about property values, the safety of pumping brine into the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke rivers, and the environmental assessments.

In June 2015 she brought up the Alton Gas project again but her concerns were not addressed. Issues were skirted; the buck was passed…. Environment Minister Randy Delorey went so far as to say:

With respect, the member opposite referenced some information from my department. I’d just like to clarify the concerns being raised around the salinity and where the parameters around that get established. In fact, the authorization and the reports of the assessment around the release of the brine solution into the Shubenacadie River is something that’s assessed and reviewed by our federal counterparts in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They’re the ones that actually assess and look at the impacts on fish habitat, marine life and so on. They’re the experts in that area, and the Department of Environment looks to them for guidance on the appropriate way to do it with the least effect on the environment.

This is in sharp contrast to what Armstrong said, when he said it’s the “province that administers the various Environmental Acts.”

The issues surrounding the Alton Gas Project can be likened to arguments that persist towards fracking. Fracking is about to go on trial at international human rights tribunal thanks to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT). They are an internationally recognized public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities. It applies internationally recognized human rights law and policy to cases brought before it. It will examine testimony to decide whether there is evidence to indict certain nations on charges that they failed to uphold universal human rights by allowing unconventional oil and gas extraction.

Dr Tom Kerns, Director of the Environment and Human Rights Advisory, based in Oregon, USA, said:

“The Tribunal will consider the human rights dimensions of a range of potential impacts: human and animal health, environmental, climatic, seismic, hydrologic and economic impacts, as well as those on local physical and social infrastructures.”

Our federal and provincial governments are guilty of the same charges. Nova Scotians’ are refusing to be manipulated any more by fossil fuel companies who play the government for puppets. We are pushing back. We can only hope that they will listen before they get pulled up by an internationally recognized tribune and have to answer for their crimes against their own people.