Indian Act band councils selling out to LNG projects in B.C.


With notes from: / /

Nine B.C. First Nations have now signed revenue-sharing agreements with the B.C. government or benefit agreements with the companies proposing LNG or LFG [liquid fracked gas] projects.

The Wet’suwet’en, Skin Tyee, Nee Tahi Buhn, Nisga’a, Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams, Haisla, Kitselas and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation.

The latest to sign revenue deals this December are the Wet’suwet’en, Skin Tyee and Nee Tahi Buhn in north-central B.C. They signed revenue deals with the province for TransCanada’s $4.7-billion Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline that would feed the Shell-led $25-billion to $40-billion Canada LNG plant at Kitimat.

The Huu-ay-aht First Nations signed a development agreement to build an LNG plant on treaty land near Bamfield, on Vancouver Island.

The Nisga’a in northwest B.C. signed a revenue deal with the province in late November for TransCanada’s $6-billion Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project. That pipeline will feed Malaysian state-controlled Petronas’ $11-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project at Port Edward, a tiny coastal community adjacent to Prince Rupert.

Those agreements with the province total $14.1 million, and would be phased in as the pipelines are built.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation chief Karen Ogen said her community considers gas more benign than oil, as gas evaporates in the event of a leak.

She said her community will use the $2.8 million in revenue sharing for a four-pillar strategy: increase education and skills for their 242 members, invest in housing, support health and wellness, and foster their culture and language.

In coming to agreements with the LNG companies, training and jobs will be paramount as it has already been at the Huckleberry gold and copper mine, said Ogen.

Their Yinka Dene Economic Development Ltd. company has partnered with contractors and is preparing to bid on pipeline work should the projects go ahead.

Last spring, the Metlakatla and the Lax Kw’alaams near Prince Rupert signed revenue-sharing agreements with the province. And the Haisla also earlier reached agreements with B.C. and companies with LNG projects in Kitimat.

In December, the Nisga’a and Kitselas signed benefit agreements respectively with TransCanada and the Pacific NorthWest LNG project led by Petronas.

These recent agreements build on a deal reached in 2009 with 15 First Nations in northern B.C. for the Pacific Trails Pipeline, which would feed the Chevron-led Kitimat LNG project.

Not all First Nations, however, have embraced LNG development.

Two First Nations — the Nadleh Whut’en and the Nak’azdli — recently filed a challenge in B.C. Supreme Court against the B.C. government over its approval of TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Nak’azdli chief Fred Sam said, however, their court challenge does not mean they are opposed outright to LNG development. (The Nak’azdli signed the Pacific Trails Pipeline deal).

While they are not necessarily opposed to LNG development, they want to ensure the environment is being properly protected, said Sam.

He said they also believe the process is being rushed, and were disappointed the province turned down their request to delay approval of the Coastal GasLink project until they had further discussions.

There shouldn’t be a big rush, given that leading projects such as Petronas have delayed decisions that were supposed to be made in December until later in 2015, said Sam.

But there has been opposition.

Gitxsan hereditary chiefs and supporters blocked Highway 16 on Dec. 6 to protest the approvals of natural gas pipelines by the B.C. government.

And the Unist’ot’en, a clan that is part of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief system, have set up a remote camp to physically block development of oil and natural gas pipelines.

The controversial and destructive way of extracting natural gas, known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’, is threatening Canada’s fresh water and wilderness areas. Fracking is now a standard extraction process used by gas companies to exploit gas deposits trapped below the ground. Canada’s remaining gas reserves are trapped in hard shale rock formations, and are difficult to access.

Fracking well pads near Fort St John B.C.

The process of fracking injects vast amounts of freshwater combined with hazardous chemicals like benzene along with sand into drill sites to break up hard shale formations and release the trapped gas. Fracking also causes large amounts of methane to escape into the atmosphere, which has a serious impact on our climate.

In BC, the biggest driver of climate change over the coming decades will be the province’s massive new liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, which will require up to 40,000 new fracked gas wells for just five of the 10 or more proposed LNG terminals. The BC government has billed the LNG industry as a windfall for economic development, but government and industry leaders neglect to tell citizens about the enormous level of environmental destruction that will result from feeding our LNG ambitions with fracked gas.

Even if natural gas emitted “only” half the greenhouse gases of coal, or if fracking turns out to be not as toxic as feared, and relatively profitable, natural gas would still not be a “game changer”: we need to take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, not put any more in; we shouldn’t be endangering our water supplies. and we can find renewable sources of energy that, in the long run, make much more economic sense. Not only will natural gas not be the fuel of the future, we won’t be using much fuel. Instead we will use renewable sources of energy from the sun, wind, and the earth.