The 20-million-gallon Lily Dam, one of the two unlicensed dams for which Progress Energy received retroactive exemption from environmental review. Photo by Ben Parfitt.
In an earlier post I had noted that Progress Energy, now known as PETRONAS Canada had been accused of building two massive unlicensed dams in violation of provincial environmental regulations. It has since been reported that that British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) allowed these massive unauthorized dams to be exempt from environmental assessments. According to Ben Parfaitt in Policy Note these dams had previously been described in internal documents of the very same EAO as being ‘illegal works’. This is a disturbing precedent because there are other unlicensed dams in the gas fields of Northern BC that stand to be given the same kind of retrospective exemption. This move by the EAO is indicative of the dominance of corporate interests generally, and PETRONAS’ imperatives in particular, within the provincial administrative process.
According to the Globe and Mail, the B.C. Sierra Club, which is a conservation group, is suing the British Columbia government to get these retrospective exemptions revoked. Olivia French, the lawyer representing the B.C. Sierra Club has stated that “Progress Energy acted with a bit of disregard for B.C.’s laws — one of those typical, ‘Ask for forgiveness, not for permission’ sort of positions.” As Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau has said that the EAO’s decision to grant Progress’s extraordinary request for retrospective exemption fuels public distrust of the relationship between government and the powerful industries it regulates.
In an earlier post I had noted how on July 13 2018, LNG Canada formally welcomed PETRONAS as their fifth Joint Venture participant and how this investment was connected with TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline that is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat. Much of the gas to be transported to market via the pipeline and terminal will , of course, come from PETRONAS owned Progress Energy’s own gas fields in the North Montney area. On November 22, 2018 Progress Energy Canada Ltd. changed its name to PETRONAS Energy Canada Ltd. (PETRONAS Canada). Mark Fitzgerald, President & CEO of PETRONAS Canada said, “The name change is a reflection of our parent company’s commitment to Canada and the strength of our business in the company’s overall portfolio.” Malaysian Crown corporation PETRONAS now not only owns one of the largest natural gas resources in the Montney basin, but is also a key player in getting Canadian LNG to market across the Pacific ocean.
If PETRONAS goes ahead with its new LNG Terminal investment in BC, the Malaysian crown corporation will hold a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s CAD $ 40 billion project. This investment will be closely aligned with the Coastal GasLink
pipeline that TransCanada is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. A further enmeshment to note that much of the natural gas will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. All the parties involved in this set of developments, the corporations, the provincial government and the federal government have their eyes on the burgeoning Asian market for the LNG .
There remain, however, some unresolved and under reported conflicts with First Nations in connection with both the terminal and the pipeline. Although there are reportedly signed benefit agreements with 19 of the 20 First Nations involved, there is some entrenched opposition. Some members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have built the Unist’ot’en healing camp in the path of the pipeline. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputra (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous peoples from British Columbia.
On Friday, 20th October, a totem pole carved by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray of a wolf and an orca fin was ceremoniously erected on Lelu Island British Columbia to commemorate the victory of the resistance against the PETRONAS/ provincial government of British Columbia/ Federal government of Canada plans for a massive LNG terminal. According to Ian Gill in his article in the Tyee Gwishawaal Ken Lawson, a house leader of the Gitwilgyoots tribe said modestly, “It’s a small pole, but the wolf is here,” Ken Lawson jointly claims stewardship rights and responsibilities on Lelu Island with Simoyget Yahaan, Don Wesley for the Tsimshian First Nation. In the course of the proceedings, Don Wesley, who publically led the resistance to protect the island and the Skeena watershed, was presented with a copper shield by Guujaaw, the leader of the Haida Nation to acknowledge his resistance.
Former BC Premier Christie Clark ran a political fundraising regime that was described as “the wild west of Canadian political cash” in a New York Times headline. While there may not have been any illegality about financial contributions under this regime its appropriateness and suitability in a genuine and people oriented democracy is clearly in doubt. Also, its implications for corporate influence over the economic affairs of the province are worth reviewing as the Liberals, now in opposition, have joined the new NDP/Green government in the push for change. There are no limits on political donations in B.C. and it is reported in the Globe and Mail that their review of public records found dozens of paid lobbyists actually make large contributions in their own names and not, more transparently, in the names of those of the interests they represent.
One such donor is Byng Giraud, the top in-house lobbyist for and Vice President of Woodfibre LNG. He has apparently given the B.C. Liberals $47,149 in 20 payments, under his own name. Another Woodfibre LNG manager, Marian Ngo, seems to have given the party $28,000, in 14 donations. The Globe and Mail cites Mr Giraud as saying that donating under one’s own name “is common practice,” as the fund-raiser ticket-purchase forms on the Liberal party’s website often had no field to put the company name. The point here is that whatever the ethical complexion of the corporate investor, it the up to our provincial government to set the tone for doing business here, and in no way should provincial economic decision making be as tinged by the colour of money as it appears to have been of late. The new NDP/Green government of British Columbia must deliver on their campaign promises about changing the law in this regard.
While the Pacific Northwest LNG logo belies its PETRONAS connections, the more established Progress Energy logo proudly wears the PETRONAS green. In his announcement on the termination of the Lelu Island development, Datuk Anuar Taib
who is Executive Vice-President & Chief Executive Officer of Upstream PETRONAS, Chairman of Pacific NorthWest LNG and Chairman of Progress Energy made it clear how deeply established in and committed to Canadian natural resource development this Malaysian crown corporation really is – “Over the years, Progress Energy and its North Montney joint venture partners have developed a reserves and contingent resource of around 52 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and resource in the North Montney assets. … we are positioning Progress Energy to be one of the top natural gas exporters in North America. That’s why we are moving our Unconventional Centre of Excellence from Kuala Lumpur to Calgary. The centre, which will house a network of technical experts with similar expertise, responsibilities and interests, will deliver operational innovations for PETRONAS worldwide unconventional gas plays with its core in Calgary.” Once again I find myself swelling with Malaysian Pride and, at the same time, shrinking fearfully at the realization that what we are talking about a monumental fracking operation in Canadian earth!