Thursday, 27 September 2007

Blue-Green Algae, Liquid Natural Gas Ports, and the Arrival of Fall

How can you tell that Fall has finally arrived? The calendar says the season changed on Monday, and for the last two nights great flocks of geese have flown over Montreal, heading south and using the full moon for navigation. But also--and just as striking--there are the big announcements from governments and business, the ones they want the public to pay attention to (the ones they’d like us to ignore they announce on Friday afternoon before a summer holiday weekend.)

For example, on Tuesday Quebec’s environment minister Lise Beauchamp and municipal affairs minister Nathalie Normandeau announced a multi-part program to solve the problem of blue-green algae which have increasingly plagued the province’s lakes and water courses. Three of the 35 points are: giving municipalities more latitude in making and enforcing regulations for development on the shores of waterways and on the use of septic tanks; providing $145 million over 10 years for the agriculture sector to fight run-off from fields which contribute to blue green-algae; and banning detergents with phosphates.

Beauchamp and Normandeau outlined the plan at a mini-summit which included agriculture and municipal groups, but to which Nature Québec, Greenpeace and other environmental groups were not invited, it seems.

Then on Wednesday promoters of the liquid natural gas port at Gros Cacouna on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river announced that the time line for development has been stretched out two years, with opening set for 2012 instead of 2010, This project as well as the Rabaska one a little downstream of Quebec City were widely criticized over the summer by environmental groups which question their effects on the health of the shore of the great river, and the river itself. Opponents also ask whether either LNG project will be economically viable—and whether it would be better for governments to encourage energy conservation.

Andrew Pelletier of Enérgie Cacouna told the Quebec daily Le Soleil that rising costs account for part of the delay. Project director Bob Eadie added that the consortium are considering constructing the marine part of the installation 150 meters from the shore, rather than the 350 meters which had been approved. “This would be better for marine life, as well as reduce costs,” he is quoted by Le Soleil as saying.

Oh yeah? Sounds to me like Enérgie Cacouna is looking to drum up support for its project locally by hinting that unless certain changes are allowed, it might just fold its cards. As Pierre Levesque, the mayor of one of the nearby municipalities who wants the project very badly, commented: “Until the first shovelful of earth is turned, we will continue to worry.”

Makes you wonder what those geese heading south are going to find when they come back to nest next spring.

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