According to Chris Hatch in the National Observer the aborted PETRONAS project which would have brought fracked natural gas by pipeline from B.C.’s interior, compressed it into a liquid for export by tankers from Lelu island near Prince Rupert, would have become one of the largest sources of climate pollution in Canada. Specifically, he cites Environment and Climate Change Canada’s assessment describing the Petronas project as becoming “amongst the largest single point sources of greenhouse gas emission in the country.” He also cites the Pembina Institute figures to claim that this project alone would have accounted for “75% to 87% of the emissions allowed under B.C.’s 2050 target.” British Columbians may, indeed, have just dodged a deadly environmental bullet.
Here is a timeline of the BC Liberals LNG affair with Malaysian Crown Corporation PETRONAS (via their subsidiary Pacific NorthWest LNG) as reported in the Vancouver Sun –
- Feb. 19, 2013: Pacific NorthWest LNG submits its project description to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
- April 29, 2013: Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. buys a 10 per cent stake in Pacific NorthWest LNG and agrees to buy 10 per cent of the liquefied natural gas produced over at least 20 years, becoming the first secure buyer.
- Dec. 16, 2013: The National Energy Board grants Pacific NorthWest LNG a licence to export up to 22.2 million tonnes of LNG annually for 25 years. It had applied in July for a licence to export up to 19.68 million tonnes, beginning in 2019.
- Feb. 28, 2014: Pacific NorthWest LNG submits its environmental impact statement to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
- March 26, 2014: The federal government approves Pacific NorthWest LNG’s export licence.
- June 11, 2015: In what it calls its final investment decision, Pacific NorthWest LNG announces it will proceed with the project as long as it satisfies two conditions: approval of a project development agreement by the B.C. legislature and clearing the federal environmental assessment review process.
- July 21, 2015: The B.C. government passes legislation to ratify a project development agreement with Pacific NorthWest LNG.
- March 21, 2016: The federal government grants the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency more time to review the project.
- Sept, 27, 2016: The federal government approves the project with 190 conditions, including for the first time a maximum cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
- Oct. 27, 2016: Two First Nations and an environmental group file separate applications for judicial review in Federal Court to quash approval of the project. A fourth challenge is launched in January 2017.
- July 25, 2017: Pacific NorthWest LNG says it will not proceed with the project, citing poor market conditions including a prolonged period of low LNG prices.
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!
Image – Koboi Kembara Lagi: Berhijrah, 8 The Fish if Fine, copyright by Niranjan Rajah. Preparatory sketch for photographic work. Image source Vancouver Sun
I am moved to hear that the PETRONAS LNG Project on Lelu Island will not be going forward. My latest email conversation on 13 July 2017 with Donnie Wesley, Simoyget (hereditary chief) Yahaan, who has lead the opposition to the project valiantly, reflects the pressure his movement has been under of late. Here is an extract from the the Chief’s last email to me, ” … many thanks for expressing the views of many. My court dates are encroaching and feel the need to scream as the misery of my people is real … “.
And for the record, here is what I had written to him that prompted his reply, “…. I feel many people do not understand what is at stake … even native people seem to be polarized between an ideal Turtle Island where the settlers and immigrants are gone and some kind of unreflective engagement with the Canadian State… ie. some are happy with the trickle down of benefits from the state … My own position as an immigrant is that I am here and I am here to stay but I want Canada to move towards a meaningful recognition of First Nation rights and claims to their remaining assets and authority … The key to Native reclamation is the insistence on proper consultation before anything else. This is what you are doing and I hope the Federal Court sees justice through“.
In all honesty, I must say my own feelings are very mixed with regard to this great victory for the Chief. I am so happy for him and his people. I am happy for the environment and the fish. I am happy for my children who will is some way inherit the environment that the present generation of deciders and actors leaves behind on this beautiful coastal land. I am however somewhat disappointed as a Malaysian that this momentous transpacific engagement will not take place and, as an artist, I feel that, suddenly, I have lost my muse!
Yesterday, the left leaning NDP officially formed the new government of British Columbia thereby ending of 16 years of conservative Liberal Party rule in our Province. The NDP had no majority on their own but with the support of the BC Green party they just pushed past the Liberals by one seat. I have addressed the duality of the NDP position regarding the Lelu Island LNG development in a previous post and now I want to address the position of their new allies the BC Greens. Andrew Weaver, the leader of the Greens, had denounced LNG as a “pipe dream” upon first taking office as an MLA in 2013. He as the lone Green MLA, voted against the special tax regime that both the Liberals and New Democrats approved for LNG development in 2014. Further, in the runup to the recent elections which saw a record 3 Green MLAs in the BC legislature, he promised to repeal the BC government”s agreement with Pacific NorthWest/ PETRONAS to develop their LNG terminal on Lelu Island. Weaver has however, in the wake if the elections agreed to support the NDP in governing BC, giving this new alliance a tenuous majority of 1 in the provincial parliament. In fact, the NDP appointed speaker would have to break with convention and cast his vote with the government for this alliance to sucessfully pass any legislation. How can Weaver hold his position on Lelu LNG if the NDP fall in behind the Feds, the Liberals and their own powerful patrons, the alliance of BC Building Trade unions, in supporting the project.
Image : http://commonsensecanadian.ca/rafe-elizabeth-may-greens-double-bc/
There are presently 3 applications for judicial review brought by Gitwilgyoots Tribe, Gitanyow Tribe and by and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust in connection with the PETRONAS/ Northern Gateway investment proposal on Lelu Island. In considering the reasonableness and good faith of the government’s decision to proceed with this development, it seems clear from the Federal Appeal’s court decision on the matter of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project that the Crown is obliged to consult with First Nations on whose territories economic developments take place before proceeding with any decision making. There are two specific issues that need to be resolved: –
1. Who should be consulted – which boils down to whose authority the Court recognizes over the lands occupied by the Gitwilgyoots and the Gitanyow tribes. In this matter the Lax Kw’alaams Band Council has launched a legal challenge to the tribal authority of hereditary chief Simogyet Yahaan.
2. What does meaningful consultation amount to – As David P. Ball notes in a Metro Vancouver article, when asked what ‘meaningful consultation’ would look like Chief Malii of the Gitanyow replied: “It means you have to really listen to the aboriginal group, take into account what they’re saying, and you have a discussion … It’s not just having a meeting or writing a letter; it’s an actual exchange.”
The first point goes to the heart of First Nations autonomy as Band Council’s are appointed under the auspices of Canadian legislation, while hereditary leadership in inherent to the native order and relationship with this land. The second point, which is the subject of this post, goes to the heart of the matter of any possible reconciliation with the First peoples on our common abode. It seems to be a matter of good faith and common sense, that recognition of the First Nations should involve some semblance of respect for their jurisdiction. Faith and sense which the details of the Tribes’ applications for judicial review indicate the Crown may not have displayed!
As the BC election campaign progresses towards the May 9th polling date, there are suggestions that the governing Liberal Party is suffering of the consequences of premier Clark’s seemingly unfulfillable promises of an LNG economy for the province. The sudden change in market conditions caused major projects to withdraw and today there is only one major project, the Petronas led Pacific NorthWest LNG investment, that still might go ahead. It is clear, however, that Petronas cannot withstand the risks in the wider LNG future alone, as there are reports that it has offered a $1 billion stake in another gas project to Shell, ExxonMobil, Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production and Japanese firms. This has no direct bearing on the BC situation but it is an indication of the sensitivity of the LNG giant to the current market conditions. Meanwhile, auguring well for BC LNG and the Provincial Liberals, the Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla and the Kitselas First Nation have all signed benefits agreements in the context of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project. Opposition by hereditary chiefs led by Yahan Wesley notwithstanding, first nations stakeholders have been signing on to the project, steadily shifting from the earlier refusal of offers of compensation. Of anecdotal interest is the fact that Malaysian leaders of the Pacific NorthWest LNG management team, who have thus far been behind the scenes, have started appearing in the BC media – Standing on the extreme right at the rear is Pacific NorthWest LNG chief operating officer and former Head of LNG Projects for PETRONAS, Wan Badrul Hisham.