Council urged to take methane stand

By Leanne Ritchie , The Daily News

The Prince Rupert Environmental Society (PRES) wants the city of Prince Rupert to back its call to stop coal bed methane development in northern B.C.

On Monday night, Donna McNeil Clark brought forward a resolution that had already been passed by the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District as well as other communities that asks the province to suspend coal bed methane development until there is much more compelling evidence that it is environmentally sound.

PRES would like to see city council pass the same resolution.

McNeil Clark explained that Shell is planning to install 14 new wells in the Klappan this year as it explores whether or not coal bed methane development will be economically feasible for the region.

The area is located 180 kilometres north of Hazelton.

“This is where the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers all originate,” she said.

Yet there’s no scientific evidence the gas trapped in the coal seams can be removed in a way that does not harm the rivers and their salmon populations, she said.

Four years ago, the province of B.C granted Shell 412,000 hectares of tenure in which it is has exclusive rights to explore the potential of coal bed methane extraction.

Coal bed methane is natural gas that is trapped in coal seams but unlike natural gas, companies can’t just install a well to extract it, it requires the breaking of the coal seam to release the pressure trapping the gas, either by using chemicals or by pumping out water from large underground lakes known as aquifiers.

Three exploratory wells were drilled in 2004 before work was curtailed due to native blockades and a flood that washed out a road.

Shell plans to resume work this fall after improving access to the area and the company intends to drill 14 exploratory wells to determine whether it should renew its tenure with the province of B.C. and continue the project.

It is the water pumped out from these wells that is of gravest concern to PRES.

Shell has stated they will truck out any water from the area produced by the 14 exploration wells, but the company has not yet said what it plans to do with the water.

A recent report commissioned by the Pembina Institute concluded there simply isn’t enough science to know if such an operation can be conducted safely, calling the development “an irresponsible experiment.”

Coun. Tony Briglio said the motion passed by the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District does not suggest the development is never allowed to happen.

“It suggests if it does happen that all the means are in place to engage the people of the region,” he said.

Coun. Sheila Gordon-Payne said she wanted time to review materials presented by the group before making a decision and council agreed to defer a decision until the next council meeting, however Coun. Joy Thorkelson called for unanimous support on the issue.

To find out how to subscribe to the Daily News (we can mail the paper anywhere), please give us a call at (250) 624-6785 or call toll free 1-800-343-0022