A suspension bridge is included in PNW LNG’s design for Lelu Island

North Coast reacts to LNG approval

Reaction has been pouring in from the federal government’s approval with conditions of the PNW LNG terminal on Lelu Island this past week

Reaction has been pouring in from the federal government’s approval with conditions of the Pacific NorthWest LNG (PNW LNG) terminal on Lelu Island this past week.

From ecstasy to enthusiasm, disappointment to outrage, all the notes have been hit across the spectrum for those with an interest in what is being called Canada’s largest-ever private-sector development.

For those over the moon with the announcement, the list is extensive.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who was part of the initial announcement taking place in Richmond last Tuesday, said the project represents a tremendous opportunity for the middle class in B.C., and across Canada, to share in the benefits that this development brings.

“As the largest capital investment proposal in British Columbia’s history, Pacific NorthWest LNG represents an unprecedented opportunity to create thousands of jobs and now economic prospects for First Nations and communities throughout our province,” Clark said.

The Port of Prince Rupert also stated the go-ahead of the terminal would represent a significant increase in cargo loads, and a diversification of product that has been included in the organization’s plans moving forward.

“I think this is significant, not only in the history of the port, but also in the history of the region — northern British Columbia and the country,” Michael Gurney, the port’s manager of corporate communications, said.

“[Tuesday’s] decision by the federal government reflects a decision of extraordinary magnitude when it comes to economic benefit that this project can deliver to Canada, including the port and B.C.’s northern gateway industry,” Gurney said, adding that the project alone would increase the overall port capacity by 30 per cent, as well as introduce a whole new cargo class.

Metlakatla First Nation Chief Harold Leighton also stated that he is “pleased” with the decision, adding that continual environmental oversight is of chief importance in the development and operational processes.

“While the project has been given approval by the Government of Canada, the Metlakatla First Nation –  through the Metlakatla Stewardship Society – will continue to be involved in all aspects of reviewing and monitoring the project to ensure Pacific NorthWest LNG is accountable to our members and respectful of our culture and our traditional territory,” said Leighton.

Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce president Keith Lambourne added his organization’s support for the project.

“We’re very pleased that the environmental process was so exhaustive and so thorough,” said the president last week.

“We’re really delighted that the opportunity is going to be there now for businesses large and small and new businesses, which would undoubtedly spring up to meet the needs of an exciting new project like that.”

The City of Prince Rupert provided a tentatively hopeful comment through a social media post by Mayor Lee Brain last Wednesday.

“The City of Prince Rupert sees opportunities for economic growth and employment as a positive step for our community. We look forward to reviewing the new conditions for the Pacific NorthWest LNG project to determine how the city’s previously raised concerns have been addressed during the EA. We additionally look forward to concluding an impacts/benefits agreement with PNW, which will contribute to securing a final investment decision,” said Brain.

Port Edward city council is excited at the prospect of the project moving forward.

“Mayor and Council are very happy with the recent announcement of the federal government approving the PNW LNG project on Lelu Island.  The environmental conditional items for this project show that the environment is important to the government during the construction and operations of this facility over the life of this project,” read a statement from council.

“The construction of this facility will have an impact on our community but at the same time it will enhance services.  Upgrades will be made to our core infrastructure and at the same time it will help stabilize our community by maintaining low residential and commercial taxes.”

The Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District has not yet taken a position and provided no comment at this time.

The list of those disappointed with the government’s decision is also extensive, beginning with Lax Kw’alaams member Christine Smith-Martin, who showed up to the media event in Richmond last week carrying a jar of salmon and said that the area’s salmon were not being looked after, and had not been specifically addressed in the remarks made by the government.

The Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition released a statement from the Skeena Corridor Nations, which mentions legal action against the project.

“The environmental assessment process prescribed in Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 passed by the Conservative government cannot be relied upon to ensure that the overarching concerns and constitutional rights of Indigenous people will be respected in the face of large, multi-faceted development proposals like that of PNW LNG. Providing a green light for this project at this time will only lead to protracted litigation which benefits no one. We urge the government to show leadership now by including our communities in full and meaningful consultations,” read a statement from the Skeena Corridor First Nations, adding it threatens the Nations’ way of life.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen added his voice to those who disapprove as well, calling the government’s decision a “betrayal” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to respect First Nations, science and Canada’s climate commitments.

“Mr. Trudeau promised he would fix Stephen Harper’s broken environmental review process,” said Cullen, adding that Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s description of Flora Bank as a salmon “spawning area” is problematic. “Anyone who has opened the book on salmon knows that salmon don’t spawn in estuaries. If the minister and the people briefing her haven’t grasped that basic knowledge yet, and are still getting the basic science wrong, then that calls into question her ability to sign off on projects like this,” Cullen said.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice echoed Cullen’s concerns over the Skeena salmon in the area.

“Listening to the federal ministers during yesterday’s announcement, it was disturbing that the importance of Lelu Island and the critical salmon resource area was not directly addressed,” said Rice last week. “It will be very interesting to see how the conditions … address this.”