Alton Gas granted construction extension for natural gas storage project

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) has approved a construction extension on the controversial underground natural gas storage project near Alton.

Alton Natural Gas Storage LP applied for an extension last November, after its Approval to Construct expired September 1, 2018.

Of the 48 letters the NSUARB received on the company's application, 44 of them opposed the proposed extension.

In its decision, released March 11, 2019, the NSUARB says opposition to the application centered on environmental issues and the adequacy of aboriginal consultation.

The regulator says it doesn't have the jurisdiction to address environmental issues.

As for consultation, the board says the adequacy issue is already being considered by the province's environment minister, and for the NSUARB to also consider it would be an inefficient use of resources and could result in conflicting decision and further duplicate processes.

Approval of the extension gives Alton Gas until September 2023 to complete construction of the project, subject to the required government approvals and permits.

For the past 12 years, Alton Gas has been planning to pump water from the Shubenacadie river to an underground site 12 kilometres away, where it will be used to flush out salt deposits, creating up to 15 caverns.

The leftover brine solution would then be pumped back into the river over a two- to three-year period.

Alton Gas says it has scientific studies showing the brine will not hurt the environment, but Indigenous protesters and their allies say aquatic life will be put at risk.