Residents of the idyllic Rocky Mountain town of Fernie, B.C. demonstrated against BP’s Mist Mountain coalbed methane project today. Nearly 200 people turned out for a rally against the contentious project, which could cover 320 square kilometres of B.C.’s southern Rockies.
Chanting slogans like “Tell the Government of BC, We are Coalbed Methane FREE!” the crowd assembled at the Fernie Arts Station and then walked through downtown to the office BP occupied before closing it earlier this year.
“The day has arrived,” said Ryland Nelson, Wildsight’s Southern Rockies program coordinator. “BP is drilling in the Elk Valley. It is a landscape-level project but it’s assessed well by well for impacts—that isn’t fair to wilderness, wildlife or water, and it is definitely unfair to the people of the Elk Valley who have opposed this project from the beginning.”
Ted Ralfe, speaking on behalf of East Kootenay Citizens Concerned About Coalbed Methane, said, “The City of Fernie, community groups, and the British Columbia First Nations Summit have all said ‘no’ to coalbed methane in the Elk Valley.”
“This is the third time Fernie residents have demonstrated against this project,” Ralfe added. “If this is what it takes to be heard, this is what we’ll do until the B.C. government hears us.”
Nelson said that problems with BP in the Elk Valley go back further than the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill disaster this April. “This is not a reaction to the disaster that happened,” he said. “This is a caution against what could happen right here. We have serious concerns about anyone drilling for coalbed methane in the Elk Valley at this point, because we haven’t seen any meaningful impact assessments being done. We don’t see communities being listened to. We don’t see independent environmental research that shows the impact of the whole project, not just the impact of one well, then another, then another, up to a hundred or so.”
Nelson said he and other groups in the province who are concerned about coalbed methane have three basic ‘asks’ of the Province before they are prepared to accept projects like Mist Mountain. “We want all CBM projects to undergo mandatory B.C. Environmental Assessments that address them as a whole—with cumulative effects factored in—not just well-by-well-by-well. We want the B.C. government to provide sufficient funds for independent baseline research—so licensees, such as BP, for example, are not left to conduct their own environmental research. “And we want communities to have a meaningful and clear say in how these projects proceed. Mist Mountain should not be allowed to proceed until these three things happen.”
Nelson said it was unfortunate the B.C. government issued drilling permits and awarded tenure to BP despite the community opposition that has been evident since the Mist Mountain project was proposed in 2007
“Wilderness, wildlife and water aren’t things to give away. We want to make sure that the southern Rockies aren’t gutted by this project. We want better impact assessments before the drilling continues.”
About Wildsight • www.Wildsight.ca Wildsight works locally, regionally and globally to protect biodiversity and encourage sustainable communities in Canada’s Columbia and southern Rocky Mountain region. This area is internationally recognized as a keystone to conservation in western North America.
Ryland Nelson, Wildsight Southern Rockies program coordinator