Kitimat LNG | BCBusiness

Kitimat LNG | BCBusiness
The Kitimat LNG facility sits on Haisla First Nation territory and is one of four export terminals proposed for the area.

With environmental impact top of mind, B.C. chiefs ask for a seat at the LNG table

Live on top of a sea of energy, as Christy Clark likes to say, and there are bound to be benefits from its extraction. But the gung-ho attitude of the premier in building the province’s liquefied natural gas industry is not wholeheartedly endorsed by B.C.’s First Nations.

At the International LNG Conference in B.C. this week, a panel of First Nations chiefs spoke out about their big expectations for the industry and their even bigger concerns about the impact LNG development might have on the environment.

“You've got to get our interests on the table and you've got to accommodate us. If you don’t, your project is not going anywhere," Chief Councillor Ellis Ross of the Haisla Nation told the audience.

The Haisla Nation is based near Kitimat at the head of the Douglas Channel, and is considered one of the more positive groups as it relates to LNG. The channel is considered a strategic location, with its deepwater port, for those wanting to build terminals and export LNG to overseas markets. Most of the proposed project sites are centered on the northern coast, with four within the district of Kitimat (including Kitimat LNG and LNG Canada) and two in the Port of Prince Rupert.

Ross said his 1,500 members have already seen some benefits from the First Nations Limited Partnership, which brings together 15 communities in support of the Pacific Trails Pipeline, one of five proposed projects slated to be built in or near their traditional territories. The $140-million worth of contracts from that partnership has resulted in residents getting mortgages, cars and RSPs, according to Ross.

Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs took a decidedly sharper tone, telling the audience that what he calls the “LNG love-in conference” between the government and the investment community has still shut out most First Nations groups.

Phillip dismissed the premier’s assertion that there has been deep engagement with First Nations. “It was very difficult to sit at our table. We were right up front, and to not say something like 'that’s crap'... it was hard not to call B.S.”

The Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nations near Prince Rupert last month signed a revenue-sharing deal with the province that could give them up to $15 million from export revenues. But Chief Garry Reece said that doesn’t mean they’ve given unqualified support to the projects. “Are we open for business? The answer is yes,” he said. "But no money will convince our members to put our marine environment in jeopardy.”

At least 47 projects are tentatively planned between 2013 and 2023, each worth more than $500 million. Not one project has received the go-ahead as yet, but if they all do, the total LNG investment in B.C. would be $165 billion.