An article in the Globe and Mail last week set the cat among the pigeons at the Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative office.
And drew a quick response from the CFN.
Executive director Art Sterritt told the Northern Sentinel that the article – which appeared under a headline ‘First Nations signal an easing of Enbridge opposition’ – “didn’t quite reflect our position”.
And that position remained one of implacable opposition to the Northern Gateway project.
Explaining the background, Sterritt said it began when Enbridge, in submissions to the Joint Review Panel, had said the CFN was being unco-operative and wouldn’t talk to Enbridge.
That assertion had some legal implications when it came to the consultation requirement as defined by the courts.
The federal government had delegated responsibility for consultation to Enbridge, meaning the company had to talk to the CFN, among others.
However, the same ruling also required that First Nations talk to Enbridge, Sterritt pointed out.
“We can’t just say we won’t talk to you.”
In fact the CFN had always been ready to talk to Enbridge or Northern Gateway personnel. “We have never hid from them,” he added.
Following those filings with the JRP, the CFN had invited Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel to attend their September board meeting, which he did.
There, said Sterritt, Daniel had conceded Enbridge had made some mistakes by talking about what it thought was good about the project and never really listening to the CFN.
And added Enbridge would like to make a fresh start with them.
Sterritt said the CFN had responded by saying it would be glad to do that, but pointed out “it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be talking about certain things in one room [with the CFN] and you, as the proponent, pushing for a decision in another room [with the JRP].”
Therefore, if there was to be a fresh start, Enbridge should ask that the JRP process be put on hold.
“The fresh start was largely intended for Pat Daniel to listen to us, it wasn’t intended that we change our mind on the project,” Sterritt said.
He pointed out there were opportunities for a relationship with the CFN that had nothing to do with Northern Gateway, specifically renewable energy in which Enbridge was already involved.
Sterritt explained the CFN already had a renewable energy plan for the Northwest that included wind power and some run-of-river projects in the Kitimat area.
And being involved in green energy was also in the best interests of the company because it would get green or carbon credits.
“They largely claim their carbon footprint (for some pipelines) is nil based on the fact they create all this green energy.”
But Sterritt emphasized that if Enbridge wanted to talk about green energy with the CFN, “it’s not going to change our opinion on the pipeline.”
He was also at pains to counter the tag the CFN was getting in some quarters as being anti-development.
“We’re trying like hell to recreate a coastal economy” he said, pointing out the CFN had supported the Haisla and the KM LNG project and had been looking closely at Shell and British Gas and other LNG proponents.
“Gas and oil are two different things. Our problem with oil is it doesn’t mix well with water,” he said.
As far as LNG exports were concerned, while the extra shipping traffic was “certainly a disruption to our territories”, an LNG tanker accident would see the gas dissipate or possibly an explosion, “but it wouldn’t wipe out the whole coast.”