TransCanada has announced that all 20 First Nations groups along the length of the Coastal GasLink pipeline have now signed a project agreement.
The announcement clears the way for the construction of the proposed 670 km pipeline which would deliver natural gas from Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat for export.
“Support for the agreements comes from the elected leaders of the 20 Indigenous bands as well as from several traditional and hereditary leaders within these communities,” said Coastal GasLink president Rick Gateman.
“The contracting and employment opportunities along with the long-term benefit programs set forth in the agreements were designed specifically for each community along the route, providing Indigenous groups with job opportunities and sustainable sources of revenue over the life of the project.”
Gateman didn’t say who the last First Nation was to sign. However, the Northern Sentinel reported in July that the Haisla Nation Council (HNC) was the only one of the 20 First Nations that had not yet signed an agreement.
At the time the HNC didn’t give a reason why it hadn’t yet signed an agreement - HNC spokesperson Cameron Orr said in July that the council remained “fully committed to the support and success of liquefied natural gas development in Haisla territory.”
Responding to TransCanada’s announcement today, HNC chief councillor Crystal Smith said the council is “happy to celebrate Coastal GasLink’s major milestone.”
“First Nations in Northern B.C. have a real opportunity to work together to build benefits for each of our communities, which respects Aboriginal rights and title, separate from the political realm,” said Smith. “This announcement from Coastal GasLink is an example of that opportunity.”
She said the HNC was looking forward “to continuing to work together with Coastal GasLink as they develop their project.”
Gateman also didn’t mention the ongoing struggle with a breakaway group of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who established a gated camp on the route that the proposed pipeline will follow.
TransCanada is investigating an alternate route which starts about 21 km southwest of Burns Lake and ends 25 km south of Houston, which will be approximately 41 km long and runs about 3.5 km south of the approved route.
”The project continues to hold discussions with some hereditary governance groups and is optimistic that additional agreements may be reached in the near future, should the project receive a positive final investment decision from LNG Canada,” said Gateman.
First Nations LNG Alliance CEO Karen Ogen-Toews, a former elected chief councillor of the Wet’suwet’en, said the pipeline “means opportunities for long-lasting careers, not just short-term jobs.”
“For the communities and councils, it means a stable and long-term source of revenues that will help them work on closing the social-economic gap that keeps Indigenous people so far behind others in Canada,” said Ogen-Toews. “We are seeing real opportunity here, and real support for the 20 Nations.”
In July Alliance spokesperson Donald MacLachlan declined to answer a number of questions sent by the Sentinel about the HNC not having signed an agreement.
“Each First Nation makes its own decisions on resource issues, and rightly so,” said MacLachlan.
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 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.
A final pipeline construction cost has yet to be determined.