Klappan region permanently off-limits to gas exploration, B.C. announces

Tue. Dec. 18/12

Following years of controversy about natural gas development in the Klappan region of northwest British Columbia, the government announced Tuesday that the area is permanently off limits to gas development. The Klappan, described as 'Sacred Headwaters' by aboriginal governments and environmental groups because it's a source area for three major northern B.C. rivers, had been under a gas exploration moratorium for four years following strong objections from the Tahltan Central Council. The Klappan is a coal-rich geological region and Shell Canada had been exploring opportunities to develop coal bed methane there until halted, first by Tahltan blockades and then by an exploration moratorium. Coal bed methane extraction involves removal of large volumes of briny and potentially toxic water from underground coal deposits before the gas can flow, and opponents - including municipalities in the region - were concerned that the discarded waste water would eventually contaminate salmon-bearing streams including the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers, as well as drinking water supplies. "Today, the government of British Columbia joined the Tahltan Central Council and Shell Canada to announce an agreement has been reached to resolve the status of natural-gas tenure in the Klappan area of northwest B.C.," a government news release said. "As part of a tripartite agreement, Shell Canada is immediately withdrawing plans to explore for natural gas in the Klappan by relinquishing its tenures. In addition, the Province of British Columbia will not issue future petroleum and natural-gas tenure in the area. "A separate agreement between government and industry will also lead to a new water recycling project - to be built by Shell - through the issuance of $20 million in royalty credits support by the Province of B.C. The terms of this arrangement were agreed upon between government and Shell in recognition of the lost, upfront capital spent by the company, in addition to rent payments already paid to the Crown on the Klappan tenures." The release does not talk about a similar ban on mining in the Klappan.