First Nations are calling for a complete overhaul of the Northern Gateway Joint Review process

Energy Environment

British Columbia’s coastal First
Nations are calling for a complete overhaul of the Northern Gateway
Joint Review process and have a filed motion that calls for the hearings, scheduled to begin
January 10, be adjourned until the proceedings are reformed.

Motions were filed between
October 28 and November 14, with the JRP by the Coastal First
Nations, an alliance of coastal aboriginal nations, the Haisla First
Nation in Kitimat, the Gitxaala First Nation in Kitkatla and a coalition of
environmental groups known as the Sustainability Coalition that
includes the Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation
Foundation, ForestEthics.

A number of reasons emerged in
recent weeks that led to the motions.

The First Nations and environmental
groups spent the summer studying the hundreds of thousands of pages of
studies, plans and other documents filed by Enbridge and its
consulting firms with the Joint Review Panel.

The Haisla First Nation, Gitxaala
First Nation, the Coastal First Nations coalition and the
Sustainability Coalition then filed a series of questions and
requests for clarification with Enbridge based on those documents.
It soon became clear that there was no time for Enbridge or its
consultants to respond to the questions before the hearings are
scheduled to begin on January 10, 2012.

The Joint Review Panel also recently
rejected a request from the Haisla
that the First Nations’ evidence
and oral comments be heard at the same time.

Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations
addresses the

Solidarity Gathering of Nations at Kitamaat Village, May

(Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

633-Art_sterritt.jpgIn September, Enbridge CEO Pat
Daniel did meet with the Coast First Nations and according to Art
Sterritt, executive director, asked for a “fresh start” in the
company’s relationship with First Nations. Sterritt said that Daniel
admitted to the meeting that Enbridge had not listened.

Sterritt said he asked Daniel to
support Coastal First Nations request for a delay and overhaul of the
Joint Review Process. Daniel promised to get back to them. There was
no hints of any other deal in the offing as reported on Tuesday,
November 23 by The Globe and Mail and other media.Gateway pipeline,
media reports that a deal with Enbridge was in the offing.

a news release issued Wednesday, Nov.  23, Sterritt, said:

The Coastal First Nations categorically oppose Enbridge’s
Northern Gateway Project  ….we unequivocally maintain our ban
on oil tankers on the coast.”

It was Mr. Daniels, of
Enbridge, who spoke of wanting a fresh start with the Coastal First

Sterritt, on behalf of the board, told Daniels that a
fresh start from the Coastal First Nations perspective meant having
Enbridge ask the Joint Review Panel (JRP) to stand down. “The
Joint Review Process is seen by the Coastal First Nations not as
objective, rather as a process that advances the Enbridge
Subsequently the Coastal First Nations has been
informed that Enbridge is not prepared to ask the JRP to stand down
or reveal who the other proponents are, he said.

In August of
2009, Enbridge stated that the proposed project would not go ahead if
First Nations communities opposed it, said Sterritt. “None of
our communities support the project. Nor do any First Nations along
the pipeline route.” “Why would we support a proposal that
would put our rivers, oceans and lifesource at risk?” Sterritt
said. “It’s time Pat Daniels and Enbridge take the correct
action and give us the fresh start they promised. It’s time to shut
down the Joint Review Process and the Northern Gateway project.”

Sterritt told Northwest Coast Energy News that they had heard
nothing from Daniel for two to three weeks and had to contact his
office, and then were told that Enbridge could not agree to a delay
in the Joint Review Process nor could it reveal, for confidentiality
reasons, who the other “proponents” are.

The first motion to the JRP, filed by the Haisla First Nation on
October 28, concentrates on the long list of questions and
clarifications, calling for Northern Gateway to provide a “full and
adequate response” to their concerns by a fixed date and until
that happens

an amendment to the Hearing Order that sets new and reasonable
deadlines for information requests and written intervenor evidence,
oral testimony and final hearings once the Northern Gateway has
provided all the information required….

The other motions are similar. The Gitxaala motion also calls
for release of studies that have not yet been filed on the Northern
Gateway site, asking that “Northern Gateway provide copies of
pending studies referenced in its various responses to information
requests from the Gitxaala and the Government of Canada.”

The part of the motion looks like the First Nations want to be able to forgo the often overly formal National Energy Board legal process to allow both presentation of evidence and oral comments from First Nations members, as the Haisla requested.

The flexibility in deadlines is also needed because, so far, Enbridge has not clarified its announced plans for a possible natural gas pipeline to the west coast and how that might affect the Northern Gateway.
(See Editorial, Oct. 7, Lawyers have a lot to be thankful for )

The Joint Review Panel did extend the deadline for information
requests for the four groups filing the motion notwithstanding the
previous deadline of November 3.

Other intervenors have until November 30 to file their own
comments. Northern Gateway can respond by filing comments up until
December 9, and the four that filed the original motions can respond
to those comments by Dec 20.

All other written evidence must filed by December 22, in
compliance with the original order.

Given the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, any decision to
postpone the Joint Review hearings will have to come quite close to
the January 10 opening date.

Enbridge had no  comment on the notice of motion or its discussions with the
group, spokesman Paul Stanway told Reuters:”We
remain committed to the consultation process and to the regulatory
review. We’re talking to a number of first nations and we will continue
to talk to them.”

JRP letter summarizing motion files by Haisla Nation, Coastal First Nations, Gitxaala Nation and the Sustainibility Coalition (pdf)

Haisla Information request(pdf)

Haisla notice of motion (pdf)

Joint Review panel rejects Haisla request for joint presentation of evidence and oral statements

Joint Review Panel

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel has rejected a request from the Haisla First Nation that it combine its formal presentation to the panel with oral statements from members of the Haisla nation.

In a letter to the JRP on November 7,  Jennifer Griffith,  of the Vancouver firm Donovan & Company, requested that the panel should hear from the Haisla Nation as an intervenor and then hear the  more informal, 10 minute oral statements from Haisla members. The Haisla requested that the combined session be held at the Riverlodge recreation centre.

Replying to Ms. Griffith, on November 21,  the Joint Review Panel restated its position that:

…the Panel communicated its decision to first hear oral evidence  and later hear oral statements.   The Panel has drafted its hearing schedule, which will be released shortly, on that basis.  The schedule does not allow for the Panel to hear oral statements  from Haisla members  during the session to hear oral evidence  from witnesses presented by the Haisla Nation.

Christy Clark flies to Kitimat, spins on LNG, flies out again

Energy Environment Politics
529-6166894394_e7958e02d3.jpgBC Premier Christy Clark meets with the leaders of the Haisla First Nation at Kitamaat Village, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011.  (BC government hand out )

BC Premier Christy Clark made a flying visit to Kitimat Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, dropping into Kitamaat Village to meet with the leaders of the Haisla First Nation and, as part of the flying, boarded a helicopter to take a look at the  KM LNG at under construction at Bish Cove, before flying out again.

It was all part of the premier’s campaign style job strategy which sees Clark touring the province this week and unveiling a complete jobs package on  Thursday.

The proposed liquified natural gas terminals at Kitimat are not as controversial in this region as the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.  There is general support for the LNG projects, allowing for  safety concerns about LNG tankers and environmental problems from the construction of the pipeline.

Clark’s visit to the Kitimat region is controversial here because from all appearances, there was little or no substance.   If the visit had in been the early decades of the last century, when politicians traveled by train rather than helicopter, it would have been a “whistle stop,” nothing more.

A BC premier visiting the traditional territory of the Haisla First Nation should, of course,  make a courtesy call on the leadership in the village, although it appears the visit was  short, routine  rather than a truly substantial meeting.

As for the rest of the Kitimat region was concerned,  the premier’s short in and out photo op was not aimed at helping the people of Kitimat but appeared to be more spinning her jobs strategy throughout the rest of the province which is less familiar with the history of  development in Kitimat.   

No one in the local media, the Northern Sentinel, Kitimat Daily nor Northwest Coast Energy News were given any information about timing of the premier’s visit, perhaps because local reporters might ask tougher questions than the BC legislature  pool traveling with Clark. The Northern Sentinel only found out about the time of  the meeting after  one of the numerous calls made by local media was actually returned in time for their reporter to be in the village for the premier’s visit.

As of Sunday, no meeting between the premier and Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan was scheduled.  At the last minute, after some political arm twisting, the premier did have a brief  ten to fifteen minute   meeting with Monaghan and Municipal Manager Ron Poole at the village on Monday.  (It should be noted that members of Kitimat council will meet with Clark at the up coming convention of the Union of BC Municipalities).

At 14:55 Monday, Sept. 19, Clark (or her PR team) tweeted.

We’re taking steps to get #kitimat’s liquefied natural gas plant running by 2015. A strong LNG industry means local jobs. #bcpoli

The message was quickly retweeted by Clark supporters. That tweet raised eyebrows, since the process for the KM LNG is already well under way, with construction apparently on schedule for the 2015 date when the first natural gas will flow into a tanker.  The licence for KM LNG is in the hands of  the federal National Energy Board. 

What the tweet meant became clearer once the premier’s office issued a news release  

Christy Clark’s “more aggressive approach to the development of the natural gas sector” includes traditional small c conservative elements:

Cutting red tape: accelerate the lengthy permitting processes and improve the decision making required to bring large-scale production facilities from a concept to a reality, and that these commitments will be a greater priority for B.C. on a go forward basis.

Skills training: working with industry partners for some time on the future skills required to support a new LNG industry. The goal is to ensure the post-secondary system is able to deliver the targeted training necessary to grow the oil and gas industry, including LNG.

Attracting investment:  by working with industry stakeholders and First Nations to remove the barriers and secure the investment required to establish up to three LNG plants by 2020. As of today, the Province is aware of a handful of LNG proposals.

The only practical element in Clark’s announcement was help for the Haisla First Nation in dealing with multiple developments: (as related in the news release)

The Province’s assistance is timely,” said Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross. “Our own training capacity is limited by resources and capabilities, and these have been exhausted given the projects now underway on our territory and the demands they place on our people for skills and training. Our economic future has never looked better, and this assistance will help us deliver on this promise to our community.”

Michael Smyth of The Province (along with a number of Tweeters) noted that most of Clark’s announcement was recycled.

Those same economic storms have buffeted the government, too, and Clark doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on direct job creation — not if she keeps her promise to balance the budget in 2013.

So, expect many re-announcements of old projects. The proposed Kitimat liquefied natural gas plant Clark trumpeted Monday, for example, was approved three years ago.
She’s also expected to cheerlead the Northwest Transmission Line project this week, another one that’s been in development for years.

Without a lot of money to throw around, Clark will talk about getting government out of the way of private-sector job creation. Deregulation and cutting red tape is less expensive than direct stimulus spending to create jobs.

The environmentalists won’t be happy when she starts fast-tracking permits for mining and other resource extraction, but losing “green” votes is the least of her worries.

Veteran journalist Norm Farrell in his blog “Let’s play political football with Kitimat” gives a list of how often a Kitimat LNG project has been announced going back to an Associated Press report from 1981

The Rim Gas Project, which includes Petro-Canada of Calgary, Westcoast Transmission of Vancouver and Mitsui and Co. Ltd. of Japan, wants to deliver and sell liquefied natural gas to Japan from a plant it will build at Bish Cove, six miles from Kitimat.

And Kitimat Tweeter  YWGSourpuss posted:

Kitimat has kinda sorta might been getting an LNG Plant since I was a teenager. Meanwhile, Methanex and Eurocan were culled, dust blows…

and then

I see media wonks waffling about LNG/Kitimat/need for cheap energy. Remember Kemano Completion? Ask Rio Tinto re: hole in the mountain.

On the Opposition side of the question, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer looked at an apparent split in the opposition NDP over the LNG issue Wednesday, noting that the environment critic NDP environment critic Rob Fleming is concerned about the controversial fracking process used to retrieve natural gas from shale:

When you look at where the gas would come from, we’re talking about major shale-gas deposits. There are big concerns there, from an environmental perspective, around water usage and whether it’s sustainable, and water contamination when it’s injected underground to bring the gas to the surface – the fracking process – and a lot of greenhouse gases produced.

Palmer reports that the NDP house leader John Horgan has indicated  that he and Opposition leader Adrian Dix support LNG exports.

 In Horgan’s estimation, it could be piped to the coast, liquefied and shipped out with minimal risk. “Liquid natural gas doesn’t stick to things. It blows up, or it vents. So the environmental consequence of a catastrophe with an LNG tanker is relatively insignificant,” he told me during an interview on Voice of B.C. on Shaw TV.

“So the risk to our coastline from LNG is insignificant; the benefit to British Columbians is quite significant. And it’s our resource, so we’ll get the royalties for extracting it, we’ll get value added by getting it to an LNG facility, and then we’ll get a better price for it in Asia.

Palmer is concerned about Fleming’s caution not to rush things, stating that

For “you can’t rush these things” is precisely the opposite of what industry analysts are saying about LNG development. The window on the Asian market is closing, and if B.C. doesn’t get moving, the opportunity will be gone. Again.

One wonders where Palmer gets his evidence that window of opportunity for the Asian markets is closing?  With the Fukishima meltdown, the market window for LNG is actually expanding, not just in Japan but across East Asia.  What some in the energy industry are warning about is Canadian gas being exported through the United States, warnings that were prominent at the NEB hearings in Kitimat last June and is largely industry spin trying to hurry the approval process along.

The controversy over fracking will continue, with the energy industry claiming it is safe and the environmental activists saying it is not. What is apparent about fracking as Pro Pubilica have pointed out in their continuing investigation of the issue, is that use of the process on a wide scale is new and there aren’t enough adequate studies of the process. Inadequate study could mean consequences down the road, we don’t know, so there should be some caution.

The blasting continues at the KM LNG site at Bish Cove as the shoreline rocks are levelled to close to sea level.  Meanwhile the political spin pitches just as much hot air and debris into the atmosphere.

Related Links

Vancouver Sun Clark leaves out Island on jobs tour

Northern View: B.C. Jobs Plan’ keys on trade with Asia

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KM LNG hearings wrap with concerns over conditions


The National Energy Board hearings into the application from KM LNG for an export licence to ship liquified natural gas to Asia through Kitimat wrapped up in Calgary Thursday, with the main participants expressing concerns over conditions on the licence proposed by the NEB.

The board panel reserved its decision. No date was given for a possible decision. Unlike the earlier hearings  in June which were held in Kitimat, the Phase 2 hearings were held in Calgary and only available to residents of Kitimat by audio webcast

On July 6 and July 8, the board panel issued a list of 12 proposed conditions on the export licence.  (The concerns of the Kitimat Rod and Gun were not among the 12. See story here)

Among the conditions the NEB wants to impose are a detailed reporting requirement that would include the name of  the LNG tankers loading the natural gas, the quantity of gas and the revenue in Canadian dollars as well as the sales contracts KM LNG may sign with its Asian customers.

Those proposed conditions brought strenuous objections from the proponents of the project, voiced by lead counsel Gordon Nettleton and echoed by other lawyers, saying that the conditions could actually scuttle the entire project. That is because Asian buyers, whether private companies or sovereign (government) agencies, place much stricter emphasis on confidentiality of the agreements than in North America. The lawyers warned that the potential Asian customers could walk away from any deals in favour of less regulated vendors in other countries if the NEB insists on full disclosure, especially if the details could be made public either through the Access to Information Act or by NEB procedures and policies.

Nettleton and the other lawyers recommended a compromise where  KM LNG would disclose to the board the total exports each quarter, the aggregate value in Canadian dollars for each quarter,  the “heating value” of the aggregate and export totals by destination country.

The lawyers also objected strenuously to conditions proposed to cover environmental and social effects of building the Kitimat LNG terminal  and the associated Pacific Trails pipeline.

These include filing a Marine Mammal Protection Plan and answer how KM LNG  would react to any potential effects on marine mammals of the ships passing up and down Douglas Channel and the BC Coast. 

One of the lawyers for the energy companies wondered why the board panel was interested in the shipping issues.”That’s what shps do, they use
existing shipping lanes,” he said. “Ships do not need permisson [now] to go up
Douglas Channel.  [This issue] has been examined bythe appropraite
authorites arnd should be accepted by the board without conditions.”

Other conditions wanted reports on potential effects and probable mitigation efforts for marine mammals, birds, fish and fish habitat, “listed fish and wildlife species,” vessel wake, ballast and bilge water management, fisheries and “First Nations traditional use activities.”

The lawyers mainly objected on legal grounds, since under the hearings for an export licence, (unlike a facility hearing like the Enbridge Joint Review panel)  the board is not supposed to be concerned about environmental issues.  There were also long, legal arguments whether the pipelines from the shale gas fields to Kitimat where “directly connected” under the legal definition used in the Canadian energy industry. The lawyers also argued that the environmental and social issues addressed in the NEB’s proposed conditions would be covered in parallel investigations by other government agencies, such as a Transport Canada review of the shipping plans for Douglas Channel,

At the same time, all parties pledged that they would be “good corporate citizens” in their undertakings to work with the Haisla First Nation and other residents of the Kitimat region and to respect the local environment.

NEB proposed conditions 1 – 9


NEB proposed conditions 10 – 12


NEB adjourns KM LNG hearings as partnership talks to coastal First Nation

 The National Energy Board adjourned the KM LNG hearings early on Friday pending negotiations between the energy partnership and the Gitxaala, a small coastal  First Nation, based in Kitkatla on the northern BC coast.  

NEB panel chair Lynn Mercier ruled that the board would not decide  on KM LNG’s request for an export licence before Sept. 15, 2011.  The panel could reconvene earlier if there is agreement between KM LNG and the Gitxaala.
The Gitxaala, like all coastal First Nations and many other BC coast residents, are worried about increased tanker traffic, whether natural gas or oil, along the BC coast.  That worry lead to heated exchanges Wednesday between Robert Janes who represents the Gitxaala and Gordon Nettleton who is lead counsel for KM LNG.
On Thursday,  testimony showed that KM LNG has been more successful than Enbridge in reaching agreement with First Nations along the pipeline route.   KM LNG has reached agreements with the Haisla, on whose traditional territory the Bish Cove LNG terminal will be built and 14 other inland First Nations, with an agreement with a fifteenth under negotiation.
It appears that KM LNG failed, as late as Tuesday, when the hearings began, to realize the concerns of First Nations along the coast.  Corridor talk Thursday indicated that the some sort of deal was being discussed. The NEB hearings were scheduled to begin at  9 am and go all day Friday. Instead  the opening was delayed until just after 10:30 when Mercier announced the panel’s decision.
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