Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Nations seek longer if not permanent moratorium on coalbed drilling

The recent announcement from Shell that they are taking a one year moratorium on coalbed methane drilling in the Sacred Headwaters, is a start but certainly not the final result they are seeking.

With a number of questions and concerns over the proposed project, the regions First Nations are going to wait and see what Shell’s next move may be, before they contemplate any further actions or approaches on the issue.

The Daily News featured their thoughts as the Front Page story in the August 22 edition of the paper.

Past articles on the coalbed moratorium included:

Shell reverses field on Sacred Headwaters plans

A one-year moratorium isn’t long enough, say First Nations
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, August 22, 2008
Pages one and three

Representatives from First Nations around the north coast region are taking a wait and see approach in regards to Royal Dutch Shell’s announcement that there will be no drilling in the Sacred Headwaters in 2008/2009.

Gordon Sebastian, executive director of the Gitxsan Nation, and Ken Gosnell, assistant co-ordinator for economic development and sustainability for the Nisga’a Nation, argued that this is not the final word on drilling on the North Coast.

“If things went wrong with their project then our community would be really harmed, Gosnell said.

Gosnell is a former commercial fisherman and he said that the Nass River should not be an experiment for Shell when the salmon stock is just starting to turn around.

He wonders why this project does not have to pass an environmental assessment unlike a mining or forestry project.

Gosnell said that any drilling that could harm the river would be toxic for the whole Nass River region, including Prince Rupert.

“Right now the salmon stock in the Nass River is finally on the comeback,” Sebastian said. “If this drilling happens to go through within the next four or five years of their contract, those numbers can fall off again; and not only fall off, it’s going to effect the wildlife and resources that we have and right down to the coastal line in B. C.”

So far this year there has been a commercial surplus of 100,000 sockeye salmons in the Nass river, down from the average 200,000 surpluses according to the department of fisheries.

The salmon stock is a valuable commodity along the Nass.

According to a 2006 Sierra Club of BC report on the salmon fishery in the Nass River, the salmon stock is worth $10 million annually to commercial and First Nation fisheries.

“The coalbed methane project is an eye opener for us. And it should be an eye opener not just for our (Nisga’a) community in New Aiyansh but also for Terrace and Prince Rupert,” Gosnell said.

In 2004, Shell was awarded 400,000 hectare tenure for coalbed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters, also known as the Klappan.

The Sacred headwaters feeds in to three rivers in Northwestern B. C., the Skeena, Nass and Stikine, two of which (Nass and Skeena) empty out in the Hecate Strait near Prince Rupert.

Currently there is no research or prior experiments of coalbed methane work in salmon-bearing watersheds.

For Gitxsan executive director Gordon Sebastian that is just not good enough.

“We do not want the water affected in any way,” Sebastian said.

“We have indicated to them that the water comes through the Skeena but they indicated that it is not coming down our way and that it is heading to the north.”

Sebastian said the Gitxsan have not been consulted on the coalbed project but if the water or salmon in the Skeena becomes affected they would hear from them.

“If they consult with us after the fact they will be dead in the water,” Sebastian warned.

And neither Gosnell nor Sebastian claimed victory this week.

“You know that one-year moratorium on drilling is going to be at least one year too short,” Gosnell said.

“They should have just pulled out all together.”

No comments: