Council says no to coalbed methane

By Ryan Jensen – Smithers Interior News – July 02, 2008

Smithers town council wants coalbed methane (CBM) exploration in the Klappan to stop immediately.

During the regular council meeting of June 24, council passed a resolution requesting the provincial government: immediately suspend CBM exploration in the area known as the Sacred Headwaters; engage in comprehensive consultations with all residents of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine watersheds and estuaries; and not proceed with CBM development in the Klappan-Groundhog area until there is compelling evidence of environmental safety and residents of the region are satisfied CBM development does not jeopardize their values and existing economic activities.

Council was divided on the issue, with Coun. Bill Goodacre, Cathryn Bucher and Norm Adomeit voting for the motion and Coun. Jo Ann Groves and Cress Farrow voting against.

Goodacre said Shell has no proven expertise in the CBM extraction and the area of their proposed development is too close to three major salmon-bearing rivers.

“The CBM in the Klappan is something that’s raised concerns right across the Northwest,” Goodacre said. “Many municipalities have gone on the record, asking the provincial government to slow down that process and take a closer look at the environmental impacts that are likely to come and not proceed until the local residents are comfortable… ”

Goodacre said he believes Shell should have to prove the project can be done safely before moving any further.

“I think the opposition is based on a belief it can’t be done safely so unless it’s possible for Shell and others to demonstrate it can be done safely, of course the opposition won’t go away. The onus has to be put on the proponent to demonstrate before they keep going that it’s not going to put those rivers in jeopardy,” Goodacre said.

Adomeit said the economic benefits of the project aren’t worth it. The gas isn’t going anywhere, he said, and the project should only proceed when it’s certain that it’s safe to do so.

Farrow said, while he is not in favour of methane production in the area, he believes more needs to be known about the project before flatly saying no to it.

“To me, it would be great to do the exploration, drill 14 holes and find out if it’s a potential project or not. If there’s a project, then the decision-making has to start. Then we have to go through the evaluation process. Am I concerned about CBM in that area? Absolutely. We have a large guide/outfitting industry… but we don’t know what’s there and maybe it’s a good thing to find out what’s there before we put moratoriums on areas.”