On Oct. 17, 2013, against the backdrop of violent anti-fracking protests in Eastern Canada, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen discussed his own plans for his Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tour of Northwestern B.C. with regional media during a regularly scheduled teleconference.
The first half of his tour will start in Smithers. After Christmas, he will take the tour east, with a possible stop in Burns Lake.
“We’re seeking to have a useful conversation and bring as much information as we can to the public about pipelines, shipping and the extraction – fracking – that goes on,” Cullen said. “It’s an effort to try to bring industry, environment groups and First Nations to the same table.”
B.C. First Nations have been the most vocal group to call into question the rush towards pipeline development through Northern B.C.
Fifteen band councils along the proposed natural gas pipeline corridors between Northeast B.C. and proposed LNG plants in Kitimat have signed on to at least one natural gas pipeline project through their participation in the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) First Nations limited partnership.
A notable and significant absence from the list of signatories to the PTP agreement is the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW). The OW represents traditional First Nation clans in B.C.’s north central interior, whose traditional territories include a large part of the Skeena watershed and extend to include Burns Lake.
They have categorically rejected all proposed pipeline activity through their territories. Every pipeline proposal on the books includes passage through Wet’suwet’en traditional territories.
Despite the apparent intransigence that any pipeline company will face in Northwest B.C., Cullen doesn’t believe that the violent confrontations in Eastern Canada are an inevitability in Northwest B.C.
“If the government was to come to the table and be honest and respectful, it avoids that kind of conflict,” Cullen said. “Anybody who feels pushed to the wall can feel like that’s their last resort.”
Although the federal government will have a say in the proposed natural gas and oil pipelines through its own environmental assessment process and through export permitting, the biggest hurdle will be provincial approval and citizen consensus.
While the province is fully on board with natural gas development, it appears to be hedging its bets with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. Cullen describes the provincial attitude towards the Enbridge proposal as confusing.
“I find it very hard to understand what the premier’s view is,” Cullen said. “She [Christy Clark] blows hot and cold on the issue. One day she says there’s no tanker support and if an oil spill were to happen it would be a disaster; the next day she puts together the tenets of an agreement with Alberta to ensure it will happen.”
Cullen was referring to the announcement of a ministerial joint working group announced on Oct. 16, 2013 between B.C. and Alberta, recognized as a warming of relations between the two provinces on the matter of transporting oil to the west coast, whether by pipeline or by rail.