Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka. File photo

Sierra Club, MLA clash over mining in the Elk Valley

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

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

Just Posted

Got rhythm? Join in with SAMAJAM in Cranbrook

Anyone who has ever attended a concert and wanted to be a… Continue reading

Fundraiser launched for Elkford boy with leukemia

Rhys was diagnosed on September 16, 2019 with B-Cell Leukemia at the… Continue reading

Ghostriders take home seventh consecutive win

This past Sunday, the Ghostriders challenged Spokane’s Braves in a fiery match… Continue reading

Extreme cold warning for the Elk Valley

The Elk Valley, along with the majority of British Columbia, is under… Continue reading

Sparwood hosts annual Chip or Burn event

Firefighters and residents beat the winter weather by warming up around a… Continue reading

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

On the job hunt with Nelson’s Make A Change Canada

The employment charity is organizing next week’s Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens game

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Most Read