Forum speakers, from left, Bernadette Wyton, Keith Wyton, Michael Sawyer, Damien Gillis, and Richard Wright  /  Pat Carl Photo

Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum

Mar 5, 2019 | Environment, News

By Pat Carl

The environmental and cultural dangers posed by LNG, fracking, and gas pipelines and the direct effect they may soon have on the Salish Sea, the Comox Valley, and Barkley Sound were discussed at a recent public forum at the Florence Filberg Centre. More than 100 people heard the dire warnings from five anti-fracking activists.

The Watershed Sentinel magazine, the Council of Canadians, and the Glasswaters Foundation co-sponsored the forum.

Damien Gillis, a journalist and the director/producer of the award-winning documentary, Fractured Land, described fracking’s by-products, including methane, as more environmentally damaging than CO2 when LNG’s full life cycle is taken in account. LNG is worse than coal “cradle to grave,” said Gillis, who also said that economically LNG is “hanging on by a thread” with the help of the provincial government’s tax subsidies.

Following Gillis, Michael Sawyer, a self-described lone-wolf lawyer, described how he appealed the National Energy Board’s decision that opened the way for the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline. His appeal hinged on the fact that the Prince Rupert pipeline attached to a significant section of federal pipeline, which brought the pipeline’s ultimate approval under federal, not provincial, jurisdiction.

Despite the limits of both provincial and federal environmental guidelines, federal guidelines are more rigorous than provincial. Although Sawyer’s appeal of the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline occurred in 1998, it provides the framework for his current appeal to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Third on the forum’s agenda was Richard Wright, a spokesperson for hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan Nation. Following the direction of hereditary chiefs in the Luutkudziiwus Territory, Wright and other band members closed their territory to LNG development by constructing Madii Lii, a camp that establishes the Nation’s control over their territory.

Part of the tactics used by provincial and federal governments is to ignore the hereditary chief system, a system of oversight in place for thousands of years, and, instead, seek permission for industrial development, such as LNG, from those not in a position to give it. This pits band members against band members. The Gitxsan Nation is also collaborating with the Wet’suwet’in in that band’s struggle with LNG.

The team of Bernadette and Keith Wyton, members of the Barkley Sound Alliance, provided background on the proposed Kwispaa site at Sarita Bay in the Port Alberni Inlet which is the endpoint of the gas pipeline which begins in Northern BC. Even though the Kwispaa project is currently on pause, the Wytons warned the project, in the future, may raise its ugly head under new management.

Negative environmental impacts of the project include the destruction of fish, fish habitats, marine vegetation, and the compromising of critical killer whale habitat, as well as gas flaring, light and noise pollution. These environmental impacts are compounded by traumatic social blowbacks, such as the construction of 2,000-bed man-camps along the pipeline route, which have been linked to spikes in local crime, such as violence against women, and drug and alcohol abuse.

A question period followed the individual presentations during which audience members were reminded that LNG gas is not extracted for the use of BC residents, but is intended strictly for export. Looking ahead, the current profitable LNG market in China may not even exist in a very few years as China extracts its own fracked gas.

Additionally, fracked gas wells have a shelf life of approximately three years, which means that many more wells will be drilled in Northern BC to meet export demands and many wells will be orphaned without remediation required of LNG.

Pat Carl lives in Comox and contributes to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project.

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