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bcLocalNews.com: Tahltan elders say no to Shell

January 30, 2008
British Columbia 

A GROUP of Tahltan elders have added their voices in opposition to Shell’s plan to drill for coalbed methane natural gas in the Klappan area.

The elders, centered in Telegraph Creek but who now also live around the northwest, feel the Klappan area is too important for development because it is the headwaters of three major rivers, says Lillian Moyer, who speaks for the group.

“For these elders, their traditional fishing spot is the Stikine River at Telegraph Creek and the Stikine has its headwaters in the Klappan. They’re worried about the downstream effect,” she said.

“A down stream effect is just as relevant as one that is up stream.”

Another Tahltan group, the Klabona Keepers, has been the prime group opposing Shell. Shell has drilled just three wells since obtaining drilling permits in 2004. It wants to look at two of those wells again and drill several more to help evaluate the Klappan’s potential, but attempts to do more have met with opposition from some Tahltan and environmental groups.

Coal bed methane natural gas, as its name implies, is located near coal seams and is held in place by water.

Freeing up the gas requires a number of shallow wells and brings water to the surface which might or might not be harmful if simply discharged.

It’s that possibility of environmental damage to the headwaters of the Stikine as well as to the headwaters of the Skeena and Nass rivers that has the elders worried, said Moyer.

“Shell says that it consulted with people before it got its drilling licences in 2004. Well, it didn’t with the elders. The first they heard is when Shell got the licences,” said Moyer who added she conducted community meetings to let people know what was going on.

“And I can tell you the elders have sent letters to the government, to Shell and they’ve haven’t heard a word,” Moyer added.

“We do know that some people got CDs from Shell and it was about the Klappan but that wouldn’t be what I would call consultation.”

“If Shell says it has consulted and they say it was with the TCC [Tahltan Central Council] then they need to know that the central council doesn’t speak for all of the Tahltan,” said Moyer.

The council is made up of representatives from the main Tahltan families and it has a small executive. It’s regarded by companies and governments as the main voice of the Tahltan but some elders and others say it is not.

“If they want to get in touch with the Tahltan then they have to get in touch with the whole group,” said Moyer of Shell.

Moyer herself was arrested for contempt of court at a 2006 roadblock stopping companies from gaining access to a road that would take them to the Klappan. She’s to stand trial for on that charge this October.

Two other groups are saying the provincial government has failed its duty when it gave Shell Canada permission to drill up to 14 wells for coal bed methane natural gas in the Klappan area.

The Gitxsan hereditary chiefs say the province needs to talk to them because the headwaters of the Skeena River are located in the Klappan area.

They join a Tahltan group called the Klabona Keepers which says the province did not follow guidelines to “consult and accommodate” when industrial development is proposed for lands regarded as traditional territory by native groups.

In a letter sent to energy minister Richard Neufeld, the Gitxsan chiefs say they are “particularly concerned about the effects of coal bed methane and exploration development ….. Of note in this regard is the potential for adverse effects on water, both ground and surface, and the impact this will have on salmon habitat within the Skeena system.”

http://www.bclocalnews.com/news/14783951.html

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