A new set of regulations aims to soothe the uncertainty regarding regulations as they apply to reserve lands, at least on Haisla territory.
The federal government announced last week the Haisla Nation Liquefied Natural Gas Facility Regulations, which came into being through the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act. That Act was designed to set a framework to fill in regulatory gaps to move forward economic development on reserves.
From a report published in the Government of Canada’s Canada Gazette, the existing gaps in regulations meant that the proposed Kitimat LNG project — a joint venture between Chevron Canada and Apache Canada — likely could not proceed.
“The project can only proceed if the facility is located in the desired…Bees Indian Reserve No. 6,” said the report. “In the absence of an adequate federal regulatory regime to ensure environmental protection, health and safety, and investor certainty, the proposed liquefied natural gas project could not feasibly proceed on.”
The same report notes that the provinces have extensive regulations regarding these types of developments. However there were uncertainties on whether those same regulations apply on First Nation reserve land, as the federal government is the body which has authority in relation to reserves.
The regulations established in this new document for the most part mirror what is already established provincially in B.C.
The goals of these regulations are reportedly to allow environmental impacts from Kitimat LNG to be effectively managed, address legislative and regulatory barriers to economic development in First Nations communities and to provide certainty for investor, developers and the public.
“This has been a long process, but everyone’s delighted,” Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said in an interview from Vancouver after the announcement. “There have been no delays to the actual project, because they’ve been operating under some interim agreements with the province in terms of permitting.”
The B.C. government passed similar legislation last spring, to govern the Kitimat LNG project and a four-tower condominium commercial development proposed for the Squamish Nation reserve in West Vancouver.
Without such changes, provincial building codes and environmental laws for burning, emissions and water and land use do not apply to reserves.
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Duncan said the delegation of reserve land use is a new approach to promoting reserve development. It has been used for a sawmill at the Fort William First Nation near Thunder Bay, industrial development in Alberta, and there is “strong interest in Atlantic Canada,” Duncan said.
Kitimat LNG has, so far, received permits from both the the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Office, as well as a 20-year export licence from the National Energy Board to export LNG.
The company is still conducting its own Front End Engineering and Design [FEED] study.
– Files from Tom Fletcher