Now that the Lax Kw’alaams Band has formally rejected an LNG benefits agreement to approve the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal on Lelu Island, the question becomes: Where do we go from here?
Unfortunately, my train of thought leads to the same place as that of MP Nathan Cullen and that is from Lelu Island into the courts.
Lax Kw’alaams has said they are not opposed to LNG, but they cannot support any development in the vicinity of Lelu Island. In short, building on Lelu Island is not an acceptable option for the Band.
Pacific NorthWest LNG, meanwhile, has spend countless millions of dollars doing exploratory work, engineering work and design work on a terminal for Lelu Island that would begin operation within a specified time window. In short, moving the terminal, starting from scratch and missing the window of opportunity to get LNG to market is not an acceptable option.
Has Pacific NorthWest LNG consulted with the Nation, in particular band leadership, over the past three years? It certainly appears that way. Was there an attempt to accommodate the band? Clearly.
But those efforts did not lead to an approval of the project in what is the traditional territory of the Tsimshian Nation.
Without that approval and with the proof of consultation and accommodation offers, Pacific NorthWest LNG could easily proceed with plans for the terminal. But at the same time the Lax Kw’alaams Band could launch a legal battle to protect their territory from what they see as an unacceptable project.
And given the highly public nature of the band’s rejection — which made headlines across not only Canadian media but indeed across the globe — I don’t see any way they are not going to fight with everything they have to prevent construction on Lelu Island.
While the band says they are open to industry, one can’t think for a second that this highly publicized rejection isn’t turning heads in the boardrooms of global companies who may be looking to invest in the North Coast.