Richard Wright, spokesperson for the Hereditary Chief of Luutkudziwuus, holds up a copy of the fourth federal lawsuit against the Pacific Northwest LNG project during a news conference in Vancouver, Tuesday, Jan.10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
The Canadian Press | Jan 10, 2017
VANCOUVER – Members of a B.C. First Nation are expected to launch another legal challenge of a massive liquefied natural gas project proposed for the province’s north coast.
Several hereditary chiefs with the Gitxsan First Nation will be in Vancouver today to announce their opposition to the Pacific Northwest LNG project, a project backed by Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas.
The group’s traditional territory is in northwestern B.C., near the area where a $11.4 billion LNG export terminal would be built close to Prince Rupert, B.C.
The federal government announced its approval of the $36 billion terminal and pipeline project in September, subject to 190 conditions, including a cap on carbon emissions.
The Gitxsan challenge is in addition to other actions by area First Nations or chiefs, asking the Federal Court for a judicial review of the approval, alleging the government failed to properly consult with them.
Pacific NorthWest LNG has said it has been meeting with local First Nations since 2012 and is continuing to work with them.
Pipeline construction in British Columbia. (Gary Campbell For The Globe and Mail)
By Christopher Adams in Analysis, Energy | Sept 22nd 2016
Several large Canadian pipeline projects are continuing to move through the approval process in the face of mounting opposition.
Although there have been setbacks, industry lobby groups are aggressively pushing back against arguments that their projects aren’t compatible with action on climate change.
Keystone XL was rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama, prompting a lawsuit. Trans Mountain is facing fierce opposition from environmentalists and indigenous leaders in B.C.. The Energy East hearings derailed after a National Observer report detailed private meetings between review panelists and a TransCanada consultant, former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
The latest development came Tuesday when proponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline said they will not appeal a Federal Court of Appeal decision in June to quash Ottawa’s approval of the $7.9-billion project. The federal government then announced it won’t appeal, either. The court had ruled the approval must be set aside because government had failed in its duty to consult with aboriginal people.
And on the land of two First Nations in Canada — the Mohawk in Montreal and the Musqueam in Vancouver — Indigenous nations across North America signed a historic pan-continental treaty allianceon Thursday against oilsands expansion in their traditional territory.
As opposition mounts, here’s an update on the status of all major LNG and oil pipeline projects in Canada.
A look at the route of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would carry 525,000 barrels per day just northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. Graphic from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway website.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would ship 525,000 barrels per day of oilsands crude from northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C.. Its goal is to sell Alberta crude to Asian markets. A parallel line would bring 193,000 bpd of toxic bitumen-thinning diluent in the opposite direction.
Northern Gateway has been hugely controversial. The idea of crude-oil laden supertankers navigating the choppy waters of the Douglas Channel on their way out to the Pacific is a non-starter for many British Columbians. The line also crosses tracts of unceded First Nations territory in B.C., which has many aboriginal groups — especially on the coast — staunchly opposed to it.
Until the June court decision, Enbridge held a federal permit to build Northern Gateway, granted in mid-2014. On Tuesday, the company urged the federal government to meet its constitutional obligations to meaningfully consult with First Nations and Metis to get the project back on track.
A graphic shows the proposed route of TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Saint John, New Brunswick. Graphic from National Energy Board website in September 2016.
TransCanada Corp., the same company behind Keystone XL, applied to the National Energy Board in October 2014 to build the Energy East Pipeline. The $15.7-billion project aims to ship 1.1-million barrels of Alberta crude a day across six provinces and 4,600 kilometres.
The pipeline would supply crude to import-dependent eastern refineries, as well as export landlocked Alberta oil to Europe and India. Energy East would repurpose existing natural gas pipe for about two thirds of the route and build new pipe through Quebec and New Brunswick.
Three days of National Energy Board hearings were held in August in Saint John, but hearings in Montreal the following week were postponed and then cancelled after protesters disrupted proceedings. They accused panellists of bias after reports published by National Observer revealed that two of them had met privately in January 2015 with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, a consultant for TransCanada Corp. at the time.
In early September, the three-member panel recused themselves. NEB chief executive Peter Watson and vice-chair Lyne Mercier gave up their responsibility to appoint a new panel, instead leaving the job to the government. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has said the promised 21-month review process for Energy East could be “modestly” delayed as a new panel is chosen.
TransCanada says construction would begin shortly after approval, with the goal of shipping oil in 2021.
TransCanada applied for U.S. permission to build its Keystone XL pipeline in September 2008. The idea was to extend an existing cross-border pipeline to give oilsands crude a more direct route to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
At the time, TransCanada thought the XL segment would make its way through the regulatory process just as smoothly as the previous phases. It was wrong.
The stretch of pipe cutting a diagonal line from the Saskatchewan-Montana border to southern Nebraska became the focal point of the environmental movement. Debate over Keystone XL centred not only on the environmental impacts on the American Heartland in the event of a spill, but on its broader role in hastening climate change.
After a seven-year regulatory saga, U.S. President Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL last November. Now, TransCanada has set in motion a US$15-billion challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing it was treated inequitably. It has also launched a separate federal lawsuit seeking a declaration that Obama overstepped his constitutional power.
The Canadian arm of U.S. energy giant Kinder Morgan is aiming to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. The existing Trans Mountain line currently has capacity to ship 300,000 bpd of various petroleum products from the Edmonton area to the B.C. Lower Mainland and Washington State.
The $6.8-billion project has faced stiff opposition from those who don’t want to see more crude-filled tankers moving through the Burrard Inlet. Protesters held up survey work on Burnaby Mountain late last year.
Kinder Morgan filed its regulatory application for the Trans Mountain expansion in late 2013. The National Energy Board hearing process for Trans Mountain has been highly criticized, with commenters and intervenors withdrawing from the process. The board has issued 157 draft conditions that Kinder Morgan must meet if the project is to be approved, and the company says that’s achievable.
In November, a report is due from a three-person federal review panel doing indigenous consultations. The federal government has vowed to decide whether or not to approve Trans Mountain before the end of December.
Pacific Northwest LNG
The $36-billion Pacific Northwest LNG project is a liquefaction and export facility and pipeline on northeast British Columbia’s Lelu Island. Led by Malaysia’s state-owned energy giant Petronas, the controversial project — which is still awaiting federal approval — would export B.C. LNG to Asian markets and would add an estimated $2.9-billion annually to Canada’s GDP. Petronas also estimates that, if approved, the project would generate up to 4,500 jobs during peak construction.
The Pembina Institute claims that the project could become the largest source of carbon emissions in Canada and that its construction would “seriously undermine” Canada’s commitment to emission reduction targets set in Paris late last year. If constructed, Pembina says the single project would take up as much as 87 per cent of B.C.’s 2050 allowed emissions under the provinces legislated target.
Construction would take around four years, with Petronas hoping to start exporting LNG to Asia by 2020 to 2021. A decision is expected in early October following a final report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
But this project is also facing some controversy due to recent reports of turmoil at Petronas, the Malaysia state energy company that is the lead shareholder of the project. The Vancouver Sun reported this week about a “jaw-dropping” audit showing that Petronas was “struggling with major safety and structural problems in its Malaysian offshore operations.”
Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre gas pipeline and LNG facility
Woodfibre LNG Limited is currently awaiting a final investment decision on its LNG processing and export facility just outside of Squamish, B.C. housed in the former Woodfibre pulp mill facility.
The $1.6-billion project received the federal stamp of approval earlier this year when Environment and Climate Change Canada said that the project is “not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” Opponents of the project criticized the Trudeau government for approving the project, citing dangers to local aquatic wildlife and broken election promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Woodfibre LNG Limited estimates that the facility could export around 2.1-million tonnes of LNG per year to markets in Asia.
The provincial government also gave environmental approval to FortisEnergy B.C.’s Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline project, which would see an additional 47 kilometre pipeline built to transport natural gas from Vancouver Island to the Woodfibre facility outside Squamish.
Enbridge obtained regulatory approval for its Line 9B reversal and expansion project in March 2014. The original Line 9 has been in the ground for four decades and had been running from Montreal to southwestern Ontario since 1998. But given shifting market dynamics, Enbridge decided to restore its flow to its original west-to-east configuration.
That would enable crude to get to Quebec refineries, like Suncor Energy’s facility in eastern Montreal. The project also involves boosting the line’s capacity to 300,000 barrels a day from 240,000 barrels.
Work on the project has been complete since the fall of 2014. The National Energy Board gave its blessing to start Line 9B last year and it is currently operational.
Enbridge receivedapproval from the National Energy Board to expand and modernize its aging Line 3 pipeline on April 25, 2016. The replacement project, described as the Calgary-based pipeline company’s largest, is expected to double the amount of crude piped from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin to 760,000 barrels per day. The company will spend $7.5-billion to replace the 50-year-old pipeline infrastructure, nearly doubling the pipeline’s carrying capacity.
Although it already has presidential approval — the stamp that Keystone XL never received — Enbridge recently pushed its expected completion date back to 2019 due to other regulatory restrictions in the U.S.
-With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey and The Canadian Press’s Dan Healing.
Lax Kw’alaams First Nation members set up camp on Lelu Island to prevent its use as a liquefied natural gas terminal.
A group led by North Coast Lax Kw’alaams members have set up a camp on Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert, as part of a “peaceful occupation” of the island that is the proposed site of Pacific Northwest LNG, a consortium led by Malaysian energy giant Petronas.
A tent and camp has been set up on Lelu Island. — Image Credit: Stop Pacific NorthWest LNG/Petronas On Lelu Island / Facebook.Com
The first tent was setup on Lelu Island the night of Aug. 25.
The camp was initiated by Lax Kw’alaams, Hereditary Chief Sm’oogyet Yahaan(Don Wesley Sr.), who traveled to his traditional territory with his sons Don and Joey to exercise his Aboriginal right to the territory and protect Flora Bank from industrial activity.
Video: Amazing support from other Nation
“We are there to carry out traditional Tsimshian activities such as smoking salmon, picking berries, drying halibut strips, and picking medicines such as devil’s club, and have every right to do so with Sm’oogyet Yahaan’s permission,” reads a statement from the group.
One of the concerns of those involved relates to the eelgrass on Flora Bank, an important habitat feature for salmon in the area.
“We got word that they’re trying to cut off eelgrass off Flora banks, and they’re going to try to transplant that at another location in the Skeena River here somewhere,” said Joey Wesley.
The occupation of Lelu Island, was sparked by recent sightings of a barge carrying equipment into the area for investigative work by Petronas contractors.
A barge carrying equipment related to geotechnical work for Petronas’ proposed Lelu Island LNG plant (facebook)
Many people — including the Gitxsan, Haida, Nisga’a and Lake Babine First Nations, as well as non-native people — have been to the island.
Video: Pacific NorthWest LNG outlined some of the work it intends to do on Lelu Island during a media tour of the island.
The terminal and its pipeline has been viewed as a leading project in the Christy Clark-led Liberal government’s efforts to start a new natural gas export industry to Asia.
The $36-billion project — by Malaysian state-controlled Petronas — has been approved by the province but is mired in a federal review that stalled because of concerns over the project’s effects on Flora Bank.
Earlier this year, the Lax Kw’alaams rejected a $1.15-billion benefits package from the company and B.C. government over similar concerns.
Hereditary Chief Sm’oogyet Yahaan said they were there to tell the people of Canada and British Columbia they were not giving up Flora Bank and want Lelu Island to remain intact. “If you take away the fish, then you take away the people. It’s as simple as that,” he said, referring to the importance of Flora Bank to salmon rearing.
He notes that the Island has been used as a homestead by his people for over 10,000 years.
Aboriginal artist Lianna Spence will treasure this feast long after the 100 friends and relatives finish their plates filled with B.C. seafood.
It is a special occasion for this late-afternoon potluck lunch at the elders’ lodge in Lax Kw’alaams. On a long table are an array of delicacies, including dried salmon and halibut, smoked black cod, boiled Dungeness crab and fried eulachon – small fish that many natives enjoy eating whole, from head to tail.
It is a day to laugh and cry as residents share memories to celebrate the life of Ms. Spence’s great-grandmother, Vera, who raised her in Lax Kw’alaams, a remote B.C. community accessible by boat or float plane. Ms. Spence, 32, spent months carving and painting an elaborate totem pole in honour of Vera, who died in 2006 at the age of 87.
During this long day full of emotion, Ms. Spence takes time to talk about a subject that has dominated the Lax Kw’alaams people’s thoughts over the past couple of weeks – Pacific NorthWest LNG’s $1-billion cash offer to the 3,600-member band, or the equivalent of almost $320,000 a person.
The fear among the Lax Kw’alaams is that construction of the massive LNG project will harm juvenile salmon habitat in Flora Bank, a sandy reef-like area next to Lelu Island in the estuary of the Skeena River. Flora Bank, which is part of the traditional territory of the Lax Kw’alaams, has become intertwined with the people’s cultural and economic identity. For a great many of the band members, the risks to juvenile salmon far outweigh the potential benefits from building an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island, located 50 kilometres south of Lax Kw’alaams.
“They’re offering us benefits if we vote Yes. But we already have a lot of benefits around us – we have coho, spring and sockeye salmon. We have halibut, crab and eulachon. Those are our benefits,” says Ms. Spence, who was one of hundreds of eligible Lax Kw’alaams voters who recently spurned the LNG joint venture led by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas.
“Lax Kw’alaams people depend on the seafood that they get for free,” says Ms. Spence, who lives in nearby Prince Rupert with her 12-year-old daughter Kiera. “I eat mostly seafood. I have two deep freezers and they’re loaded with seafood.”
After a morning boat ride over to the nearby Finlayson Island gravesite, Lax Kw’alaams members carefully lifted the totem pole. Four non-natives were honoured guests to bear witness to the ceremony. A high school art teacher from Prince Rupert, Tasha Parker, brought along her husband, longshoreman Ian Dobson. Ms. Parker and 14-year-old twin sons Ivan and Liam helped carve the totem pole. Mr. Dobson sympathizes with the Lax Kw’alaams and their worries about potential harm to salmon habitat. “Flora Bank is the nursery of life for the Skeena River,” he says.
The third and final round of voting wrapped up on Tuesday in Vancouver. In each instance in Lax Kw’alaams, Prince Rupert and Vancouver, eligible voters rose from their chairs to overwhelmingly reject the offer from the Petronas-led LNG group.
Pacific NorthWest LNG’s benefits package includes the $1-billion spread over 40 years. There are also provincial land transfers valued at $108-million. The catch is that the Lax Kw’alaams band council, after canvassing members, must provide aboriginal consent to plans to build an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island.
Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposed suspension bridge over Flora Bank would carry a pipeline that extends southwest for 1.6 kilometres away from Lelu Island. That span would connect with a 1.1-kilometre-long trestle to a deep-berth location for tankers filling up with LNG in Chatham Sound. A report commissioned by the Lax Kw’alaams warns that the trestle would threaten to disrupt a complex system that effectively holds Flora Bank in place. A study commissioned by Pacific NorthWest LNG, however, reaches a vastly different conclusion, submitting that the LNG project would have little to no impact on Flora Bank.
“The bottom line is we’ve demonstrated that we’re open and through constructive consultation have adapted things to the environment,” Pacific NorthWest LNG president Michael Culbert said during a phone interview.
The Lax Kw’alaams are one of five Tsimshian First Nations consulted by Pacific NorthWest LNG as part of the environmental review process for the energy-export proposal. Two groups, the Metlakatla and the Kitselas, signed impact-benefit agreements with the joint venture in December. Two others, the Kitsumkalum and Gitxaala, have not yet announced their decisions.
Donnie Wesley of the Gitwilgyoots, one of nine allied tribes of the Lax Kw’alaams, says jobs are hard to come by, but the local fish-processing plant and logging operation are important employers. “Our logging company even has an office over in Beijing for marketing. And we have about 60 boats in our fishing fleet,” Mr. Wesley says as he walks down a gravel road in Lax Kw’alaams to the beat of drums and spiritual songs.
An estimated 800 people live in the community of Lax Kw’alaams, or roughly one-fifth of the total number of band members. Roughly 1,800 are based in Prince Rupert and another 1,000 in Vancouver and elsewhere.
“Our people are not against LNG for the most part. Based on my conversations with some members, they want LNG development. They want to see jobs, opportunity and economic benefits, but there are better bets than Flora Bank,” say Chris Sankey, an elected councillor with the Lax Kw’alaams band, formerly known as the Port Simpson band. He says Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece and the 12 elected councillors will take a look at any tweaks that Pacific NorthWest LNG might make. “We’re going to be here for the next 10,000 years and that LNG project won’t be,” Mr. Sankey says.
During this sunny day in Lax Kw’alaams, two young boys play street hockey outside their parents’ home in a typical Canadian scene, except this house also sells some treats and groceries. Howard Green and his wife, Traci Reece, operate the modest store out of their home. They are in a good mood because a group of boys and girls visiting from Prince Rupert made the trip over to play basketball against Lax Kw’alaams youth. The visitors boosted sales of candy and ice cream, valuable commodities in Lax Kw’alaams, where residents need to plan carefully to supplement their seafood diets because the major grocery stores are in Prince Rupert. A ferry service operated by the band runs five days a week for the 45-minute journey between Prince Rupert and Lax Kw’alaams, but the sailings are limited to a maximum of two trips in each direction daily.
Mr. Green says his people’s connection with Skeena River and other seafood-rich waters remains strong, and he won’t be swayed by the promise of LNG riches. “There’s too much at stake. The people who live here are worried about the effects of LNG on our food,” he says.
Mr. Green and Ms. Reece are looking forward to this fall, when their sons Dennis and Jaycee, ages 8 and 4 respectively, will attend a new school being built with the help of $19.7-million in federal funding. Ms. Reece says she was thinking of her children’s future when she voted against Pacific NorthWest LNG’s offer during a meeting in Lax Kw’alaams. “If people knew the food that we eat, they would have a greater appreciation of our way of life,” she says.