Flathead & Crowsnest drilling rights posted

The BC government has for the second time this year posted for auction the Crowsnest (Flathead and Coal Creek) petroleum and natural gas drilling rights.

Earlier, the government withdrew the posting, in response to mounting opposition in the East Kootenays and in Montana. Following that, the town of Fernie passed a resolution stating that a thorough environmental impacts assessment be done before the rights are posted again. The Flathead Basin Commission called on the International Joint Commission to review the matter. The Governor of Montana, Judy Martz, asked Premier Campbell to defer mine permitting until the IJC can review the proposals.

Campbell’s response? The province’s intent is to develop coalbed methane, “polite letters or not”.

The government has opened information offices (referred to as “spin offices” by local people) in Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie – a very expensive exercise in community consultation, yet wholly unresponsive to the statements of those communities and our international neighbours.

The rights have been posted again, in July, for an auction completing August 2004: Sales notice (specifically, Parcel 44740 Flathead and 55741 Coal Creek).

To quote David Thomas, a councillor for the town of Fernie: “In July, the government of British Columbia has again announced the auction of coalbed methane rights for two large blocks of the transboundary Rocky Mountain ecoregion critical to grizzly bears and other wildlife.

“The government is thus proceeding with coalbed methane extraction without the comprehensive environmental, social and economic impact assessment called for by many concerned parties, including Fernie City Council, the Flathead Basin Commission, and the Governor of Montana.”

Coincident with the rights posting, a letter from Governor Martz appeared in the Hungry Horse News. Gov. Martz says she expects the same level of baseline information, and assurances that no impacts will result in Montana from coalbed methane development in BC.

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