It was a day to celebrate, to forget the bitter confrontations and to look to the future Tuesday as Shell Canada announced it is relinquishing its gas tenures in the Klappan region of northwestern British Columbia and the B.C. government declared the Klappan permanently off-limits to gas development.
"Today is a huge milestone," said Anita McPhee, president of the Tahltan Central Council, which governs the Tahltan First Nation. "I am just beyond words about how deeply moved I am about Shell giving up its tenures in the Klappan."
Tuesday's joint announcement is the culmination of "years and years of resistance by the Tahltan people and our allies," McPhee said, a reference to blockades by the First Nation and to the environmental groups who had brought international pressure to bear on the Klappan. The 4,000-square-kilometre region southeast of Telegraph Creek is also known as the Sacred Headwaters because it is the source of three major rivers of the northwest — the Skeena, Nass and Stikine.
[...] The issue in the Klappan involved environmental impacts of the extraction of coalbed methane. Coalbed methane extraction does not necessarily involve fracking. However, it involves the 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 and drinking water supplies.
[...] At ForestEthics Advocacy, one of the environmental groups that spearheaded the international campaign over the Sacred Headwaters, campaigner Karen Tam Woo said Tuesday was a day to celebrate.
"Days like today are few and far between," she said. "It's a big deal when small communities can stand up to one of the biggest corporations in the world and win.
"For the province, this announcement is quite significant coming out of the Clark government, which has been quite focused on developing natural gas."