Methane dispute reignites in B.C.
The Globe and Mail
August 22, 2007
VANCOUVER — A group of protesters, including members of the Tahltan and Iskut Indian bands, blocked a road in northwestern British Columbia yesterday, preventing Royal Dutch Shell PLC crews from heading into a contested region to do road repair work and reigniting a debate over coal bed methane exploration in the area.
Shell is reviewing its options, spokesman Larry Lalonde said yesterday, adding that it’s too early to say if the company will seek an injunction to gain access to its exploration projects.
“We have to look at everything that’s there – one of those options could include seeking an injunction, but we haven’t made that decision yet,” Mr. Lalonde said.
Shell has licenses to drill up to 14 wells in the region. The company voluntarily curtailed exploration work in 2005 and 2006 following similar protests.
Opponents says coal bed methane projects could pollute surface and ground water, threaten fish and wildlife habitat, and disrupt a remote wilderness landscape. Coal bed methane is natural gas found in coal seams. B.C. currently does not have any coal bed methane production, but the province has voiced support for coal bed gas development.
For this season, Shell planned to reopen three of four previously drilled wells and possibly drill new ones, Mr. Lalonde said. In response to concerns about potential water contamination, the company has promised to truck any from its exploration activities away from the site for treatment or disposal.
Before Shell can do any exploration work, it must repair a road badly damaged by this past winter’s heavy snowfalls and flooding. Road repair crews and equipment turned back after encountering protesters on the Ealue Lake Road, near Iskut in northwestern B.C., yesterday morning.
In 2005, 13 people were arrested at a blockade at the same site that targeted Fortune Minerals Ltd., an Ontario-based company that has a coal project in the region.