The Sipekne’katik chief and council will decide its next move in opposing the Alton Gas storage project during a band council meeting on Thursday.
The scheduled band meeting follows a community meeting chief and council held in Indian Brook First Nation, N.S. Tuesday evening. The meeting was called to discuss the Province of Nova Scotia’s decision to approve Alton Gas’ plan to store natural gas in underground caverns along the Shubenacadie River.
“We actually needed to hear from the community (on) what their thoughts were on this whole Alton Gas (project),” Sipekne’katik Chief Rufus Copage said following the meeting.
More than 70 community members gathered in the basement of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Indian Brook to discuss their concerns about the Alton Gas storage project.
In January, the Nova Scotia government granted several approvals to Alton Gas Storage LP to create underground salt caverns along the Shubenacadie River to store natural gas.
The company plans to remove salt from the ground by drilling a well into the salt formation and flooding it with tidal water from the river to dissolve the salt. The combination of the tidal water and salt, called brine, would cycle back up the well and create an empty space to store natural gas. The company proposes to pump the brine into a holding pond and then release it back into the river.
A number of options were discussed at the meeting to oppose the project. They included filing an appeal of the province’s decision to approve the project, filing an injunction to stop the project from proceeding, occupying the river bank near the construction site or protesting on the steps of the Nova Scotia legislature in Halifax.
“They (band members) want us to protect our treaty rights,” Chief Copage said.
“They want to shut (Alton Gas storage project) down. They don’t want that brine going into the river,” he said.
“It’s part of their identity” – Lenore Zann, NDP MLA
Other people who attended the community meeting to show their support for Sipekne’katik included several residents who live along the Shubenacadie River and Lenore Zann, NDP MLA for the Nova Scotia riding of Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River.
“It’s more than just a river that we would look at and go, ‘Isn’t that a pretty river.’ It’s part of their identity,” Zann said following the meeting.
“And I think people are feeling that finally, it’s time for them to rise up and say, ’This is our identity and you’re messing with it,’” she said.
Zann, who is the aboriginal affairs critic for the Nova Scotia NDP party, says she intends to keep the issue in the spotlight when the spring session of the provincial legislature begins at the end of March.
“Even if the science was okay, do we really want to have nine billion litres of salt being poured in the river every single day for three years other than when they stop for the 24 days for the spawning season,” Zann said.
In the meantime, Chief Copage says he would still like to hold a band referendum or plebiscite on the Alton Gas Project.
“We have 70 people here but we have 2,500 other band members so we’re not sure where they all stand,” Chief Copage explained.
“Like, 70 people, that’s a good turnout but still, we need to know exactly where the other people stand.”