LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz listens to Premier John Horgan speak at announcement of the $40 billion project in Vancouver, Oct. 2, 2018. (B.C. government photo)

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say no to approved LNG pipeline

Rundown of support, opposition and what $40-billion LNG investment means for BC and Bulkley Valley.

LNG Canada announced last week that its joint venture participants – Shell, PETRONAS, PetroChina, Mitsubishi and KOGAS – have taken a Final Investment Decision (FID) to build the LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat.

The investment is estimated to be $40 billion, the largest private investment in Canadian history.

TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline would be built to send the natural gas — which will be condensed and cooled at the terminal and turns to vapour if exposed to air — from northeast B.C. to the Kitimat terminal, passing south of the Bulkley Valley on its way. Work camps for hundreds of people each are planned near Burns Lake and Houston.

Fourteen total camps of varying sizes would be built along the entire 670-km route, with the average peak size being 500-800 workers, according to TransCanada.

The camp south of Houston, named the Huckleberry camp, would be along the route that passes closest to the Unitstot’en camp built by Wet’suwet’en and environmentalist supporters who oppose any pipeline construction. The camp was originally set up to block the now-cancelled Northern Gateway bitumen oil pipeline, but has grown to include permanent structures near the Morice River.

All 20 elected First Nation band councils along the pipeline route have signed benefit agreements with TransCanada. Witset held and passed a re-vote early this year after a promise to do so after last year’s election, re-affirming the deal it signed.

In addition to finalizing the agreements, the Coastal GasLink project has also awarded approximately $620 million in conditional contracting and employment opportunities to northern Indigenous businesses. The pipeline project anticipates another $400 million in contracting opportunities for local and Indigenous businesses during the construction period, bringing the total to approximately $1 billion for B.C.

The pipeline is estimated to create 2,000-2,500 jobs during construction, with 16-35 permanent positions. The LNG Canada project is expected to create 10,000 jobs at its peak.

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en, representing the hereditary chiefs, sent out a release re-affirming its position supporting the Unistot’en opposition.

“The territory – the Yin’tah, the land, the air, the water – that all belongs to the Wet’suwet’en people. We’ve never ceded nor surrendered nor signed a treaty to give away any of that authority to anybody,” stated head chief of the Tsayu Clan Dinï ze’ Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) in the release. “If there are decisions to be made on our land, it is our decision and nobody else’s.”

The 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa Supreme Court of Canada case recognized the hereditary chiefs system. The Supreme Court also ruled that “free prior and informed consent” must be sought from title holders.

From the Office of the Wet’suwet’en:

The federal Department of Justice has acknowledged this in its ‘Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples:’

“The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that Aboriginal title gives the holder the right to use, control, and manage the land and the right to the economic benefits of the land and its resources. The Indigenous nation, as proper title holder, decides how to use and manage its lands for both traditional activities and modern purposes, subject to the limit that the land cannot be developed in a way that would deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.”

Premier John Horgan said he was in the area recently to hear out the Wet’suwet’en concerns.

“LNG Canada has been working with elected councils from Fort St. John right through to Haisla, and have the support of all of those nations. There are hereditary groups, particularly in Wet’suwet’en territory, who are not yet there. I made a trip to Wet’suwet’en territory in the past couple of weeks, not to negotiate, just to hear the concerns of the people in the region. And I’m confident that with some more hard work we can get to a place where the benefits of this activity will outweigh the negatives that hereditary groups are looking at today,” he said.

The Premier also pointed to a scientific review of gas extraction. The process known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been an environmental concern especially in regards to water.

“The panel has met 40 times with academics, with Indigenous people, with communities, with industry, and we’re expecting their report to be tabled with Energy Minister Michelle Mungall either late this year or early next year,” said Horgan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Horgan and global energy players in describing Canada’s first liquefied natural gas development as a path to low-carbon energy.

“There will come a day when traditional energy sources will give way to new energy sources, just as coal gives way to LNG,” Trudeau said.

Shell estimates that coal is still 30 per cent of the world energy source, while natural gas provides the equivalent energy with half the carbon dioxide emissions and only one tenth of the air pollution of coal.

LNG Canada said it will provide natural gas to countries where imported gas could displace more carbon-intensive energy sources — namely coal — and help to address global climate change and air pollution.

As B.C. Greens leader Andrew Weaver confirmed he will vote against tax breaks for the project negotiated by the NDP government, B.C. Liberals are expected to support a project their government worked on for years. Horgan’s government intends to repeal an LNG income tax that was imposed on the Petronas-led Pacific Northwest LNG project that was cancelled amid a slump in LNG.

“It will mean at the end of the day about $23 billion revenue to the Crown that we can put into schools and hospitals, and that’s what everyone wants to see,” said Horgan.

Horgan and B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman have promised to release a greenhouse gas plan this fall that will take into account the emissions from LNG development and develop reductions in transportation and other sources of carbon emissions in the province.

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The southwest view of the proposed LNG Canada plant in Kitimat. (Submitted)

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