Sierra Club, Kootenay MLA clash over mining

Tom Shypitka, Sierra Club BC butt heads over petition opposing new mining activity in the Valley

A conservation group and local MLA have clashed over a petition opposing new coal mining activity in the Elk Valley.

Sierra Club BC is calling for a moratorium on new mines and mine expansion projects in the Valley until pollution from exisiting operations is brought under control.

“Communities should not have to deal with impacts like black rain from coal dust falling across neighbourhoods and polluted drinking water,” reads the Sierra BC campaign page.

“Selenium pollution from mining is also causing birth defects in birds like American dippers and deformities in westslope cutthroat trout, a popular species for local fishing listed under the Species at Risk Act due to its declining stocks.”

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shyptika has lashed out at Sierra Club BC on Facebook, accusing the group of fear mongering and labelling them “eco-terrorists”.

“The mining industry has come leaps and bounds over the past 100 years,” wrote Shypitka.

“Don’t get taken in by eco-terrorists. British Columbians do it best and our workers, corporations and unions should be celebrated along with it.”

Sierra Club BC Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon has written a letter to Shypitka’s office demanding an apology and defending the registered charity, which has existed for 50 years.

“It is deeply irresponsible for an elected official to accuse Sierra Club BC of being ‘eco-terrorists’. I request you retract your comments and apologize,” wrote Vernon.

She defends Sierra Club BC’s position, citing a recent Teck Coal summary of predicted pollution levels, which shows the company isn’t expected to meet current limits until 2023, as well as B.C.’s Auditor General Carol Bellringer, who found the province’s mining compliance and enforcement program was inadequate during a 2016 audit.

LOOK BACK: Teck mitigation plan changes cause concern

“… mining practices in the Elk Valley have not changed significantly when it comes to curtailing water pollution. The problem is getting worse, not better,” wrote Vernon.

Vernon also disputes the MLA’s claim that mining coal “will lead us to a low carbon economy” and help Canada reduce greenhouse gases.

“Exporting approximately 24 million tonnes of coal from the Elk Valley each year yields roughly 60-63 million tonnes of CO2 pollution when coal is burned to produce steel,” Vernon writes.

“That’s almost exactly equal to B.C.’s entire annual reported carbon emissions, which were 62 million tonnes in 2017. Mining operations in the Elk Valley make up three per cent of B.C.’s reported annual emissions.”

When contacted by The Free Press, Shypitka, who is the Opposition Critic for Energy and Mines, acknowledged there are water quality concerns in the Elk Valley.

However, he maintains that Sierra Club’s statements that Teck is “relentlessly” extracting coal and is being given a “free pass to pollute” by the B.C. Government are inflammatory and unfounded.

“There are regulations and a high environmental standard that must be adhered to, which are some of the highest in the world,” he said in an email to The Free Press.

“Industry is not getting a free pass. Teck has committed close to a billion dollars for active water treatment facilities. I see the new water treatment equipment being placed on the ground and getting ready to start up.”

Shypitka has committed to raising these issues with the B.C. Government. He said he welcomes the views of all groups concerned but has called for “swords down”.

“We have close to 13,000 family’s (sic) livelihoods between direct and indirect jobs on the line here,” he said. “Let’s take a responsible approach to this very sensitive and serious situation.”

To read the full Sierra Club BC letter and Shypitka’s statements, visit Thefreepress.ca.

 

Sierra Club BC’s response to Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka. Submitted

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka’s original post. Source: Facebook

Just Posted

The Nest offers a warm welcome

For Judy and Calvin Germann, retirement means slowing down, not stopping. Calvin,… Continue reading

Cannabis store offers sneak preview

With Town of Creston bylaws and approvals now in place, the opening… Continue reading

Council approves Blossom Festival Beer Garden

A request from Casey’s Community House to close 12th Avenue North between… Continue reading

Police deal with personal disputes

Creston RCMP received 48 calls for assistance, many involving personal disputes, from April 9-15.

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Most Read