The development and operation of an underground natural gas storage facility is highly regulated and requires many permits, licenses and approvals from provincial and federal authorities.
Following extensive studies and consultation, Nova Scotia Environment issued two Environmental Assessment (EA) approvals for the Alton project.
On January 21, 2016 the Government of Nova Scotia announced regulatory approvals for Alton Natural Gas Storage, including an industrial approval (IA) to operate the brine storage pond. On April 8, 2019, the Government of Nova Scotia issued an amended approval with additional conditions to operate at the river site. The issuance of the IA was appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court by Sipekne’katik First Nation. A Court decision on March 24, 2020 set aside the IA and ordered an additional 120 days of Crown consultation between the Province of Nova Scotia and Sipekne’katik First Nation. Alton is abiding by the Court decision and only care and maintenance activities will take place at the river site during this period. Alton will also continue to comply with any direction by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment during this period.
Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board
On November 14, 2018, Alton applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) for an extension to the Approval to Construct the natural gas storage caverns to 2023. On March 11, 2019 the UARB released its decision on the application, granting the extension request.
Environment and Climate Change Canada indicates that a federal regulation under the Fisheries Act is being developed to regulate brine release at the Alton project into the tidal Shubenacadie River estuary.
The development of the regulation means the Alton project will be subject to further compliance and enforcement provisions in addition to regulatory oversight by Nova Scotia Environment and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. A draft of the regulation is expected to be published in Canada Gazette, Part 1 in 2020, followed by a public comment period.