A group of 65 Gitxsan First Nations and supporters, led by several hereditary chiefs, showed up on an icy December Saturday to block Highway 16, near Hazelton. They were peacefully registering their opposition to the recent granting of 3 new environmental certificates for proposed LNG infrastructure in northern BC – including two pipelines that would transit Gitxsan territory and an LNG plant that threatens Skeena River salmon stocks.
The demonstration was led by the hereditary chiefs who, this past summer, constructed a camp named Madii Lii in the path of several proposed pipelines designed to carry fracked shale gas from northeast BC to LNG plants near Prince Rupert. The camp is part of a growing movement of hereditary and grassroots First Nations in various northern territories who are standing up against proposed LNG development – including the Unist’ot’en camp in the path of several Kitimat-bound pipelines.
The provincial approval of more LNG infrastructure by the Clark government in late November spurred the group to take to the streets this past weekend. The projects approved include Malaysian energy giant Petronas’ proposed pipeline and LNG plant on Lelu Island, in the heart of the Skeena Estuary. The project has drawn criticism from fisheries experts and First Nations over its potentially catastrophic impacts on juvenile salmon. Also approved was Spectra’s planned Westcoast Connector pipeline.
Spookw hereditary chief Guuhadakwa (Norm Stephens) declared in a press release Saturday:
[quote]The Gitxsan people have relied on the Salmon for thousands of years. The importance of the salmon to the Gitxsan people far out weighs any of the financial benefits that are and may be offered in the future for these LNG pipelines. The risk to the salmon is far to great to allow any pipelines to cross our territories and none will. We will not loose the salmon on our watch.[/quote]
But LNG opponents have something to celebrate as well, since Petronas, just one week after receiving its environmental certificates, announced late last week that it is putting its projects on hold – due to the rapidly deteriorating economic fundamentals of the global LNG market. Plunging oil prices are negatively affecting Asian LNG rates, while intense competition and a growing global glut of LNG supply mean it’s harder for companies like Petronas to see a profit from the massive investment they would need to make in BC LNG.
The other recently approved pipeline being protested by the Gitxsan on Saturday, Spectra’s Westcoast Connector, also faces an uncertain future, as British giant BG Group has been getting cold feet about the Prince Rupert LNG plant that Spectra’s pipeline is intended to supply.
With both tough economic hurdles to face and growing First Nations opposition, it appears the bloom is off the rose for BC’s once-vaunted LNG industry.