Lost in the eelgrass with Canada’s LNG plans – by Peter Foster (National Post – May 15, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The oil and gas industry has been comprehensively outplayed by the environmental
movement, which has cleverly stoked and exploited concerns about accidents, along
with aboriginal resentments and legal uncertainties, to achieve its
anti-development goals. (Peter Foster – National Post)

Remember Stephen Harper’s commitment to streamline regulatory approval for resource megaprojects? I’m not sure whether the process has in fact been sped up, but regulatory approval seems increasingly irrelevant.

This week, the Lax Kw’alaams band of Northern B.C. may have dealt a severe blow to the Pacific NorthWest LNG project (PNW) — a massive $36 billion development, including related pipelines – by rejecting outright a benefits package worth more than a billion dollars to its 3,600 members over 40 years.

The Supreme Court’s decision last year in the case of B.C.’s Tsilhqot’in Nation extended the scope of aboriginal title, and stressed consultation, but claimed that it did not give native groups a veto. Not de jure, perhaps, but de facto?

PNW, which plans to go into production by 2019, is spearheaded by Malaysian state energy company Petronas. The B.C. government has already approved the project, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is due to give its assessment in October, but does it matter? Will any energy megaproject in, or crossing, aboriginal lands every be built again?

The oil and gas industry has been comprehensively outplayed by the environmental movement, which has cleverly stoked and exploited concerns about accidents, along with aboriginal resentments and legal uncertainties, to achieve its anti-development goals.

All four major proposed pipelines out of the oil sands — Keystone XL, Northern Gateway, the TransMountain expansion, and Energy East – face fierce, and successful, environmental opposition.

Significantly, within days of Federal Cabinet approval for Northern Gateway last year, there were protests in Prince Rupert at which Lax Kw’alaam leaders – including Mayor Garry Reece — were prominent. According to Reece, “No money in the world will make us support something that will destroy our sea resources and the environment.”

This week, Reece appeared to make good on his promise/threat. He declared that the “unanimous” rejection of PNW’s billion (plus another $108 million of land from the province) “sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue: This is environmental and cultural.”

For the rest of this column, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/peter-foster-lost-in-the-eelgrass-with-canadas-lng-plans

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