A legal battle will continue against the federal government despite an end to the Pacific NorthWest LNG (PNW LNG) project.
Two house groups of the Gitxsan, the Gitwilgyoots, Gitanyow and Skeena Wild all filed legal action last year against the federal government’s approval of the project alleging consultation was inadequate.
Spokesperson for Madii Lii(house of Luutkudziiwus of the Gitxsan) Richard Wright says they turned down a request to withdraw their litigation.
“Once you have a project approved, it has a high dollar value. And they can turn around and sell the pipeline and terminal site as it is. So we certainly want to close the door to any type of those possibilities,” says Wright.
PNW LNG said in a statement, “the decision (to end the project) was made by PETRONAS and its partners after a careful and total review of the project amid changes in market conditions.”
The company says they’re also committed to developing their natural gas assets and are continuing to explore all their options.
Ahead of the project’s approval, Wright alleges the provincial government forwarded faulty science on the impacts of the project to the federal government. He says the province also held a lot of closed meetings that Wright says most of the Gitxsan Nation was left out of.
“They have definitely opened Pandora’s box. We have created a permanent camp, and we are challenging the jurisdiction and authority of the provincial permitting process,” says Wright.
The Madii Lii territory, located north of Hazelton in the Suskwa Valley, started their camp in 2014 where they closed the area to all pipeline and industrial development.
Running through Gitxsan territory, the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (PRGT) pipeline project would ship natural gas to PNW LNG and was approved by the province in 2015.
Twelve Gitxsan hereditary chiefs also signed a benefits agreement with the PRGT project last year.
Wright says the 12 chefs didn’t follow the correct protocol ahead of signing the agreement.
“The (hereditary) Cheif is only a representative of the house group and has a duty to get direction from the house group. Now if you sign a confidentiality agreement you are not able to meet with your house group to talk about this issue,” says Wright. He also says the approval of 12 chiefs isn’t enough to represent the nation.
Earlier this month, a Federal Court of Appeal judge ruled that the National Energy Board has to decide whether the federal or provincial government has jurisdiction over approving PNW LNG.
Former BC Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad doesn’t believe the ongoing court challenges or the court of appeal decision were to blame for stopping the mega-LNG project. He says the new BC NDP government have created uncertainty for the LNG industry.
“Not to mention the fact that they were vocally opposed to the Petronas project made it very challenging for the companies,” says Rustad.
Skeena Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen says if the proposed project on Lelu Island wasn’t a threat to the salmon estuary there, the project wouldn’t be so contentious.
He says the National Energy Board needs to do a better job at figuring things out.
“Because they haven’t answered some of the most basic questions along the way like; who has the authority to say yes or no? I mean, gosh, if you don’t figure that stuff out you think it’s just like a bunch of monkeys running the thing.
So lets do it better. Let’s do some proper service for the companies and the communities they want to work in,” says Cullen.
Conservative MP for Prince George-Peace River Bob Zimmer is disappointed with the death of the project.
“My office worked extremely hard with our former Prime Minister(Stephen Harper) in attempting to make this project a success,” says Zimmer.
He says with thousands of potential jobs now lost, BC needs to focus on being hospitable to project proponents.