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

Rossland’s Seven Summits school gets grant to grow global presence

Centre for Learning hopes to triple the number of international students it has

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

Rossland skiier places third at U19 Canadian Ski Cross

Rossland’s Sage Stefani finished out a successful season.

Warfield elementary school celebrating 70 years

Webster Elementary School officially opened April 23, 1949; open house and events planned next week

Trail workshop offers path forward for affordable/supportive housing

Columbia Basin Trust, BC Housing and the CMHC all spoke during the Tuesday morning session

Dashcam captures close call between minivan, taxi at busy Vancouver intersection

To make the footage more nerve-wracking, a pedestrian can be seen standing at the corner

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

Most Read