The Alton Natural Gas Storage Facility Project is a plan to store high-pressure natural gas in artificial caverns about one kilometer underground near Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. The company plans to use water from the Shubenacadie River to flush out salt deposits, dump the waste water back into the river, and use the resulting underground hollows to store natural gas.
The Alton Gas project commits to expanding Nova Scotia’s fossil fuel industry at a time when we urgently need to be transitioning to renewable energy. The caverns themselves would risk leaking, posing risks to the land and watershed. The project was approved without proper consultation with Mi’kmaq people, and it continues to violate the Peace and Friendship Treaties of Mi’kma’ki.
No Jobs on a Dead Planet
The Alton Gas project shows how capitalism and colonialism work in tandem. This project would make a profit from damaging wildlife habitat, taking control of the land and water, and violating the rights of those who currently rely on it.
Our Risk, Their Reward
AltaGas, the parent company of Alton Gas, is a transnational corporation with over $10 billion in assets. The CEO of AltaGas, David Harris, reported $3.7 million in total earnings in 2015. In 2016, the company reported both a 20 percent growth in revenue and a 10 percent reduction in its non-utility workforce. AltaGas is a capitalist venture, it pursues profit with disregard for all else.
Capitalist projects can be deceiving. The company says that the project would create jobs, when it would actually jeopardize more jobs than it would create – according to appeals against the project from business owners and fishing associations in the area. The company also says that the project would reduce natural gas prices for customers, when it would really just make natural gas sales more profitable for the company. Any supposed benefits would be used to justify AltaGas gaining private profit at a huge cost to people and the planet.
Success is Contagious
In 2013, PetroWorth was defeated in Lake Ainslie. Later in 2013, SWN was defeated in Elsipogtog. In 2017, Energy East was defeated nationally. All of these threats were defeated with the leadership of Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous peoples. All of these threats are not only defeatable in the short term, but are preventable in the long term.
Energy infrastructure – something we all need – can be socially owned and democratically controlled with respect for Indigenous sovereignty. In the long-term, it can be managed through a combination of public ownership, cooperative ownership, and community-based non-profit enterprise. In the short-term, it can be mitigated through meaningful consultation, enforceable climate agreements, and progressive legislation.
Short-term and long-term strategies are both necessary, and they both require building the capacity of social movements. Showing solidarity with the people who are resisting the Alton Gas project is a step in this process.
Here are a few ways to show solidarity with those on the front lines: