“Treaty 8 is well positioned to lead First Nations decision-making and to spearhead mutually beneficial relationships between BC First Nations and the LNG industry, from the extraction point to export. We are the ‘linchpin’ of the First Nations LNG wheel, with successful negotiations, agreements, and decision-making at the extraction end making roll-out down the proposed routes much smoother.”
British Columbia has become a focal point in the global race to provide liquid natural gas (LNG) to the Asian market. First Nations are a critical part of this landscape, as the gas wells, pipelines and terminals will be built in our traditional territory. Presently there are 12 players in BC with proposed projects to ship LNG to Asia. Major gas plays, such as the Horn River Basin in Treaty 8 territory, are ground zero for most of these projects and will be the nexus for supplying these projects.
LNG proponents are proposing to create a whole new site of well development in Treaty 8 territory that would feed into pipelines going through the west coast, to be sold overseas. In anticipation of building these projects, there has recently been a flurry of activity in northeastern BC. Applications to drill wells are up, and 469 authorizations for new wells have been approved. This is an increase of 53 per cent over the first six months of 2013, over the same period in 2012.
Although LNG is unprecedented in BC, Treaty 8 is not opposed to development – in fact, new opportunities for development can bring success to communities as long as it is done in environmentally and culturally sustainable ways. We cannot stress this enough. It is our foremost priority, as we have already seen a great deal of development that has done considerable damage to our environment.
After 60 years of oil and gas development in Treaty 8 territory, some of which is being closed off now, Treaty 8 needs to know where the land is at and what the cumulative effects will be before developing any further. LNG is new and involves different types of development; it can potentially mean an enormous amount of new work in the Treaty 8 areas. It will also mean tripling the amount of development in Treaty 8 territory. That is why we are calling for a regional environmental assessment that will show the overall impact of development to date. We don’t want the land left stripped in 10 to 15 years, leaving our future generations with nothing.
Once the sustainability of this new development in our territory is assured, we will of course want to participate in a meaningful way, whether that’s ownership of business opportunities such as joint ventures, being stewards of the land, or being part of the solution to environmental concerns.
Our new economic development corporation, Kihew-Sas Ventures Ltd., will seek to enable the full economic participation of Treaty 8 First Nations in the financial and economic benefits of large-scale economic development on Treaty 8 land such as that proposed by LNG proponents. Kihew-Sas also has the potential to allow other First Nations to participate fully in these benefits. And it will do this while at the same time balancing concerns regarding environmental issues and potential impacts to Aboriginal and Treaty 8 rights and title.
Specifically, this would include working with the communities to negotiate agreements with proponents or private companies, to helping with grant applications for certain economic development initiatives. Whether these be through AANDC or Clean Energy BC or any other kind of funder out there that plays a predominant role in economic development.
Treaty 8 is well positioned to lead First Nations decision-making and to spearhead mutually beneficial relationships between BC First Nations and the LNG industry, from the extraction point to export. LNG is currently seen by most First Nations as a much lower risk than crude oil products. While opposition is strong among coastal First Nations to oil tankers, opposition to LNG is less ardent. Key nations have not taken opposition stances against LNG proposals as they have against the Enbridge proposal, for example.
The risk in moving crude is mostly seen as being in tanker traffic, while the risk in LNG is seen mostly in extraction. Treaty 8 is the “linchpin” of the First Nations LNG wheel, with successful negotiations, agreements, and decision-making at the extraction end making roll-out down the proposed routes much smoother.
Kihew-Sas has the opportunity to be the driving force behind successful LNG agreements with First Nations all the way down the proposed routes. With successful agreements, Kihew-Sas can involve Treaty 8 communities and stakeholders in the LNG industry and ensure its development brings long-term benefits for the First Nations involved.