Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross and Deputy Chief Councillor Taylor Cross have recently returned from a trip to Asia with the Premier to research natural gas demand overseas.
Ross and Cross published their report to council on the trip on December 6.
In summary, they found that access to natural gas was very important to China, which is currently dealing with new socio-economic situations, and high levels of pollution.
“The perception in Canada is that China doesn’t care about the pollution and emissions,” they wrote in their report. “Based on what we saw and heard, this is not true.”
They say that China is working with private industry to find ways to reduce pollution and use energy efficiently.
“The air quality problem in China is real and they do need a cleaner fuel to burn as their emerging middle class is larger than the population of B.C. and Canada and this new class of people want a standard of life that is comparable to what we have in Canada,” the report continued.
(South Korea as well is anxious for China to move away from diesel and coal, the report states, because air pollution from China blows into their country.)
Ross, speaking to the Sentinel from Vancouver, said the trip was eye opening for him.
“The biggest thing that it opened my eyes to was just looking at their energy needs and energy consumption with my own eyes. It’s just amazing in terms of how they use energy, when they use energy and what the impacts are,” he said.
He said the Haisla have been working on natural gas files effectively since 2004, but have rarely, if ever, stepped out of their own territory to look at impacts.
“I’m not one for traveling, ultimately, and it doesn’t make sense for us to go anywhere on our own coin. It’s not just our agenda we’re trying to push, we’re trying to push Canada’s agenda, and B.C.’s agenda. In the same breath we’re pushing for the region’s agenda.”
In all Ross and Cross describe as Asia’s need for energy and to reduce their pollution problems as “very urgent” and that B.C.’s LNG plans are only a start.
“If they can’t get BC natural gas, they will look at other forms of energy from different sources as they are using all forms right now,” they write.
“They especially know the impacts of pollution and want to switch to cleaner fuels. The problem is that they just can’t turn it on like a switch. Until they get access to cleaner fuels, they have no choice but to keep burning dirty fuels.”
They conclude, “We as Haisla have been and will continue to be criticized for our acceptance of the natural gas industry and its impacts but at least we can say we did the best we could with available information and we did it on our own behalf.”
As for what Ross took away from how close B.C. might be to actual LNG exports, he said the future is still a mix of optimism and uncertainty.
“I hope so,” he said when asked if residents here can expect movement on some of these projects in the next year. “I’m hearing the right things out of these companies but until I actually see that FID [Final Investment Decision] in writing, I can’t say much more than that. I think the province is actually doing as much as it can to get these projects off the ground as well.”
He said the Haisla have supported LNG projects for years, going back to a couple of proposals for the area in the 1980s.
The tour to Asia was together with Premier Christy Clark’s trade mission and the trip was covered by the B.C. government. AltaGas, they also note, upgraded their flights to business class.