The Ecology Action Centre and East Coast Environmental Law Urge the Federal Government to Consult on Alton Natural Gas Regulations

Photo Credit: Mike Kofahl Photo Credit: Mike Kofahl

May 21, 2019 

K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – The Ecology Action Centre and East Coast Environmental Law are raising concerns about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to create regulations that will authorize Alton Natural Gas to release salt brine into the Sipekne’katik (Shubenacadie) River.

Currently, the federal Fisheries Act prohibits the deposit of a "deleterious substance" into waters frequented by fish. This would include the salt brine that Alton Natural Gas plans to discharge into the Sipekne'katik River.

“Local residents, Mi’kmaq rights holders, and environmental groups have long raised concerns about the potential impact of the Alton Gas project on the environment and fisheries. Recently-released documents show that salt content in the brine produced will be up to six times higher than what's considered safe for fish” says Sadie Beaton, Community Conservation Research Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.

While the effluent is currently prohibited under the Fisheries Act, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (“ECCC”) has a conditional power to authorize certain deposits through regulation. In February 2019, ECCC declared its intent to authorize and regulate the proposed brining activities.

Research by the Ecology Action Centre and East Coast Environmental Law indicates that if the proposed regulations are created, it will be the first time that an effluent regulation under the Fisheries Act was created to enable a single project by a single industrial operator.

“The Government of Canada is creating these regulations with what appears to be minimal opportunity for public input, despite the fact that the project is very controversial,” says Beaton.

“Once in place, the Alton Natural Gas Regulations could set a new precedent by allowing a single project and its proponent to release a substance that would otherwise violate the Fisheries Act into fisheries waters,” states Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of East Coast Environmental Law.

The two organizations are urging ECCC to incorporate more meaningful opportunities for public engagement in this exceptional law-making process. Specifically, they are asking the government to provide high-level and detailed consultation documents to interested parties before publishing a formal draft of the proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part I, and to hold information sessions with interested parties before publishing the proposed regulations.

Read their letter to Environment and Climate Change Canada here.

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For further information, please contact:

Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director
East Coast Environmental Law
(902) 670-1113 / [email protected]

Sadie Beaton, Community Conservation Research Coordinator
Ecology Action Centre
(902) 221-1953 / [email protected]