Nova Scotia

U.S. energy giant Halliburton wins bid to assemble explosives in rural N.S.

The U.S. energy giant's application was initially rejected by the Municipality of the District of West Hants, but the company appealed that decision to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

Explosives trucked from Texas destined for use at oil and gas wells in Eastern Canada

Halliburton requested the land-use bylaw amendment to allow the company to assemble explosives at its storage facility near Walton, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC)

U.S. energy services giant Halliburton has been permitted to rezone its property near Walton, N.S., to allow for the assembly of explosive devices after taking the matter to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The company operates an explosives storage facility near the village and sought to rezone the property to assemble explosives, used in oil and gas exploration, on-site.

The storage site, built earlier this year, is located in an isolated area about two kilometres down a bumpy dirt and gravel road. The buildings the explosives will be stored in are specially designed to help contain explosions, the company says.

Explosives will be trucked from Halliburton's Jet Research Center in Alvarado, Texas, to Walton, where they will be stored until they're needed at other locations in Eastern Canada. The materials are used to create holes in the steel pipes at the bottom of exploration wells to allow oil or gas to flow into the pipe for extraction. They are also used to help remove pipes from wells when they are no longer in production.

Staff at the Municipality of the District of West Hants had said the company's application met its municipal planning strategy and requirements for land-use bylaw amendments.

But in July, the municipality's planning advisory committee rejected the rezoning application, citing safety and other concerns.

The company appealed to the province's review board, which issued its ruling on Thursday permitting the rezoning.

The board said council's refusal to grant the land-use bylaw amendment did not "reasonably carry out the intent of the municipal planning strategy."

Abraham Zebian is the warden of the Municipality of the District of West Hants. (Robert Short/CBC)

Abraham Zebian, the municipal warden, said the ruling is "disappointing," since councillors made their decision based in part on what their constituents were comfortable with.

But he acknowledged that Halliburton's application did meet all the criteria for approval and that council erred in its judgment.

"We judged using emotion and that was an improper use of our policies," Zebian said.

"It is a reminder to councillors that if an application does come forward, that you need to base it solely on our [municipal planning strategy] and our [land-use bylaw]."

In an emailed statement, a Halliburton spokesperson said the company is pleased with the board's decision and that it is committed to the safety of residents.

Strategy under review

Zebian said the municipality is in the process of reviewing its municipal planning strategy.

"Going into the future, I would most likely say that there will be clauses in there that allow us to base [decisions] upon more things. Time will tell," he said.

Zebian said the company told a public hearing that explosives will only be assembled at the location twice a year.

Halliburton says the explosives have the same grade of charges as those used in the mining industry and the amount of explosives stored on site will depend on demand.

The company also told the municipality it expects to store substantially less than its permit allows.

Halliburton is one of the world's largest oil field service companies with operations in more than 70 countries. It employs approximately 55,000 people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at frances.willick@cbc.ca

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