Princeton chosen as coalbed methane "pilot project"

The East Kootenays isn’t the only place under seige by Energy & Mines. Princeton is a target as well, along with Hudson’s Hope, Hat Creek, and soon, communities on Vancouver Island.

Petrobank Energy and Resources has a 60% interest to the coalbed methane rights (with Connaught and Birchill, two other small companies) in the Princeton Coalfield. They have done some test drilling, and have made agreements with some landowners.

Petrobank now plans to drill up to 5 wells through 2004-2005 as a test project, as described in this slide from Petrobank’s presentation from June 2004.

The Ministry of Energy & Mines (MEM) and the Upper Similkameen Indian Band (USIB) are meeting next Tuesday, July 27, 5-8 pm, in Princeton to discuss the “Environmental Resource Information Project (or Inventory Project) (ERIP). ERIP is being initiated by MEM to compile information and in some cases create new data in select coalfields.

MEM calls the Princeton/Tulameen a “pilot project” to do more in-depth undertaking of available data. Whatever that means – and it could mean quite a bit in terms of MEM’s agenda to develop coalbed methane, the interest that USIB has shown, and the advancing nature of Petrobank’s program.

Considerable public concern has not been addressed however. This meeting is a closed camp, and government plans are to ignore those concerns and help the project develop with as few impediments as possible. As in all communities with coalbed methane potential, the folks living around Princeton and downstream on the Similkameen are having something they didn’t ask for foisted upon them.

Coalbed methane development in the Princeton coalfield is just one of a number of projects that could affect the Similkameen, the Tulameen, the Okanogan, and the Columbia.

Rights in the neighbouring Tulameen Coalfield are held 75%/25% with Compliance Energy and the Upper Similkameen Band. In addition to coalbed methane development in the Tulameen Coalfield (the Tulameen River flows directly into the Similkameen), Compliance already has a small coal mine in operation, and plans for a coal-fired generation plant (for which they recently announced having acquired an option on a property to build the plant).

First American Scientific and partners announced in June that they had started construction on a zeolite mining and processing project at Allenby, near Princeton, and in the Similkameen drainage. (link)

Other considerations:

– the incineration/waste disposal facility on the Similco Mine site (which processed some 20,000 chicken carcasses from the Fraser Valley earlier this year).

– the enduring after effects of mining operations over previous decades along the river

– use of pesticides and herbicides on adjacent agricultural lands

– historic low water levels and high water temperatures.

The complex interplay of all these influences point clearly to the need for comprehensive baseline studies and cumulative impact assessment(s), likely on both sides of the border. This echoes the call for pre-development studies by Fernie, Montana, and the Union of BC Municipalities.

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