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The fight for and against LNG development continues

Petronas may have pulled the plug on their terminal plans but some believe it isn’t over
Lelu Island, the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG site. (File photo)

Petronas has decided not to move forward with its Pacific NorthWest LNG project but some remain hopeful, while others worry, it will be revived.

This news also puts TransCanada’s proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline in question. This line would run from northeast B.C. to Prince Rupert, passing just north of Hazelton on its way.

Gitxsan Development Corporation president Rick Connors thinks this is only a temporary delay.

“It may not be Petronas but let’s not forget there is an approved pipeline now from a region where they need to get and remove natural gas out of that region to a market, whether that market is down south or overseas, that remains to be seen but we have an approved pipeline project. It is independent of the Petronas decision,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe Malaysia’s energy company is gone forever because of the significant investments it has made in Canada.

“There will be a time where the market is right, that it makes sense to continue the project,” he continued. “The fact that it isn’t going ahead today, I believe, is a disappointment to everyone in the region if they understand the economics behind a project of this magnitude.”

Connors believes the GDC can maintain the contracts they negotiated during the initial process if comes back to life. However, he added the GDC was not banking on the employment or financial agreements that would come with either project.

“Our company will survive, it has never been dependent on pipeline projects, we consider them lotteries. I consider it winning the lottery to have a natural gas pipeline project that was proposed by PRGT. That would have made an incredible difference to our bottom line going forward and would have made a incredible difference to our capacity to deliver and provide economic benefits to the people of the region. We were in the position to capture those benefits, we were very well positioned with both people, management and capacity from a financial perspective to not only participate but benefit long term with that wisdom of providing more jobs for people in the region,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with Connors.

Three years ago, a group of Gitxsan chiefs closed Madii Lii territory to all pipeline development. This area is part of where the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Line is slated to cross.

A gate was put up at the 15km bridge on the Suskwa Forest Service Road and a cabin was built to control access to the territory. It is now occupied full time with no plans to leave now that the LNG projects are on hold.

“They can still … find new investments or turn around and sell it,” Wilp Luutkudziiwus spokesperson Richard Wright said. “The terminal site and the pipeline are both approved.”

Wright said they are expanding the camp on a daily basis. They are currently building a longhouse and putting up permanent cabins.

“We will absolutely continue to occupy the camp. We are going to continue to provide the family and youth programs that connect people to the land,” he said.

The Luutkudziiwus, a 600-member house of the Gitxsan Nation also has no plans to drop their court case against the federal government challenging regulatory permits issued for the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline.

“The thought in our litigation is to quash the order of approval and that would be something we will continue to seek so they can’t find new investors,” he said.

Wright added the fight is bigger than just stopping one pipeline project.

“The process is flawed in how the provincial government gave its approval and gave it to Ottawa and convinced them they followed their own laws when they didn’t and consulted in good faith — and we know they didn’t.”