Lax Kw’alaams band council comments on unanimous rejection of LNG benefits agreement

The final round of meetings for the Lax Kw'alaams LNG benefits agreement wrapped up in Vancouver and resulted in unanimous opposition.

The Vancouver results mirror those of community meetings held in Prince Rupert and Lax Kw’alaams last week and, with all the feedback gathered, band council is now commenting on the rejection of the $1.14 billion proposal.

“The Terminal is planned to be located in the traditional territory of the Lax Kw’alaams. Only Lax Kw’alaams have a valid claim to aboriginal title in the relevant area – their consent is required for this project to proceed. There are suggestions governments and the Proponent may try to proceed with the project without consent of the Lax Kw’alaams. That would be unfortunate,” said Mayor Garry Reece in a statement released by the band.

“Hopefully, the public will recognize that unanimous consensus in communities (and where unanimity is the exception) against a project where those communities are offered in excess of a billion dollars, sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue: this is environmental and cultural. That unanimity was achieved in three separate community meetings.”

While the band members unanimously rejected the proposal, band council said this does not mean the door is closed to future discussions with Pacific NorthWest LNG (PNW). However, the door is closed to a development at that location.

“Lax Kw’alaams is open to business, to development, and to LNG (including PNW). It is not open to development proximate to Flora Bank,” said band council.

“Lax Kw’alaams recognizes the positive economic impacts for all British Columbians that might result from a positive final investment decision by PNW. Lax Kw’alaams will continue to work with PNW in good faith to find a solution.”

Noting the meetings last week were the first time the company was able to go into Lax Kw’alaams to speak directly with residents and that the results of the membership meetings were “disappointing”, Pacific NorthWest LNG president Mike Culbert said the focus now is on continuing to consult and provide information about the project.

“To some extent what has been missed is that, through consultation, there has been significant changes made to the project in the past three years … the question ends up being whether that information is getting to the members and I think the realistic answer is no because this was the first time we were able to speak directly with the community,” he said, pointing to extending the marine terminal further away from Flora Bank and moving to a suspension bridge trestle.

“With the monitoring work we’re doing, the fish counts we’re doing and the various studies we’re doing, it is very important that they be engaged.”

While the location was the primary concern of members, Culbert said looking at a different site would “be restarting the project entirely, including the regulatory requirements”.

As well as talking about the work of Pacific NorthWest LNG, the Lax Kw’alaams band council said they feel the federal government through the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) has not met its requirements for the band.

“To date, it is the considered opinion of the Lax Kw’alaams that there has been indifference to the point of negligence or willful blindness, or both, by PRPA in respect of the PNW project,” said band council.

However, the Prince Rupert Port Authority notes the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is leading the environmental assessment while the PRPA is participating as a regulator agency with respect to navigation and shipping.

“The CEAA-led process is open and transparent, and parties interested in obtaining further information regarding the role of CEAA in evaluating environmental impacts for proposed projects and contemplated mitigation measures are encouraged to visit http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/details-eng.cfm?evaluation=80032 to learn more. It is important to note that based on input received to-date, Pacific NorthWest LNG has made significant alterations to its original project description in order to accommodate concerns related to fisheries and the integrity of Flora Bank,” reads from corporate communications manager Michael Gurney.

“The Prince Rupert Port Authority respects the constitutional rights of local First Nations, and has a strong record of engagement, consultation and partnerships with local First Nations.”