Nova Scotia court rules government withheld documents on Alton Gas development, quashes appeal

APTN National News
A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has quashed the province’s rejection of an appeal by a Mi’kmaq community related to the Alton natural gas storage project.

The community of Sipekne’katik, formerly known as Indian Brook, argued Alton Natural Gas Storage’s plan to flush out salt to create storage caverns poses an environmental risk to the nearby Shubenacadie River.

Alton Gas has proposed a storage facility in salt caverns where natural gas will be stored until sold. The caverns are made using water from the river – that salty brine will eventually be released into the environment.

A number of groups are concerned about how the salty brine will affect the ecosystem in the river when released.

In a written decision released today, Justice Suzanne Hood ruled the band was denied procedural fairness when the province refused the band’s request to review and respond to reports on the project by the Nova Scotia Office of Aboriginal Affairs and the Environment Department.

Specifically, Hood says the band was repeatedly denied access to a 30-page interim report written by provincial environment project leader Glen Warner and submitted to Environment Minister Margaret Miller on the same date she denied the band’s appeal in April 2016.

Hood says the matter has been sent back to Miller to allow the band an opportunity to review Warner’s report and material from the Office of Aboriginal Affairs “on which Warner relied.”

The judge also ruled she doesn’t have the authority to grant a stay of the province’s industrial approval of the project, and concluded that it was unnecessary for her to deal with the issue of the province’s duty to consult.

The court case caused controversy late last year when media reported government lawyer Alex Cameron argued the Mi’kmaq were a conquered people, and that treaty rights were limited. Mi’kmaq were outraged and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil apologized. Cameron was taken off the case and the offensive arguments were retracted.

— with files from the Canadian Press


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