THE GROWING battle over Shell Canada’s plans to drill for coalbed methane natural gas in the Klappan area north of here ramped up yesterday with the release of a report by an environmental group stating salmon could be put at risk.
The Alberta-based Pembina Institute, which is now establishing itself in B.C., says the number of wells and subsequent roads and infrastructure required to extract coalbed methane natural gas leave a large footprint on the earth’s surface.
“Land clearing can change the patterns and intensity of runoff, increasing erosion. This can lead to muddier streams and destruction of spawning habitat. Groundwater removal, even when it occurs deep underground, can change the flow and temperature of streams,” the institute said in a May 15 release.
That’s crucial to northwest salmon because the Klappan contains the headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers, it adds.
Coalbed methane natural gas can also be kept underground by pools of water, requiring that water to be first pumped out so the gas can then be released. And that could change the patterns and characteristics of above ground streams, says the institute.
The institute urges the provincial government to find out a whole lot more about coalbed methane.
Shell drilled three wells in the Klappan in 2004 and is planning a return this year to drill more to determine if there is a commercially viable quantity of coalbed methane natural gas.
Those first wells did not produce any underground water and determining if there is any is on the project list for this year, company officials say.
The Klappan is in the traditional territory of the Tahltan and segments of the Tahltan community oppose Shell’s plans, saying the the area is too environmentally sensitive to allow any industrial activity.
Shell is now finishing up repairs on an access road into the area and says it wants to resume drilling in the fall.
It has already faced a blockade of that access road by members of a Tahltan group called the Klabona Keepers, resulting in court appearances.
The Pembina Institute traces its roots to 1982 in Alberta when a public movement began for better industrial safety standards after a sourgas leak killed two people.