MP open to LNG site switch meet

Nathan Cullen thinks there’s a deal to be made which could end the opposition to the proposed Lelu Island location west of Terrace, B.C.

Artist’s rendering of the planned Pacific NorthWest LNG plant on Lelu Island near Port Edward.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen thinks there’s a deal to be made which could end the opposition and controversy surrounding the proposed Lelu Island location for the planned PacificNorthwest LNG project. That change would be for the company to move to another location.

Cullen even has another location in mind – the one on Ridley Island selected by the BG Group for its Prince Rupert LNG project.

“I’ll even buy the coffee,” said Cullen of his offer to host a meeting of top executives from the companies and other decision makers.

Speaking last week, Cullen said the proposal is based on two factors – the first being the opposition to Lelu Island and the second being the recent purchase by Shell of the BG Group.

“I was never sure why they had picked Lelu Island in the first place,” said Cullen in reference to its location within the salmon-sensitive Skeena River estuary.

He added that he has asked Petronas, the Malaysian government-owned corporation which is the lead company involved in Pacific NorthWest LNG, but has failed to get an answer. “I know both the federal and provincial governments wanted them there. Actually, the federal government helped by changing legislation.”

Ever since Lelu Island surfaced as Pacific NorthWest LNG’s preferred location for its LNG plant and export terminal, opposition has grown based on worries of possible effects on Skeena River salmon.

Although a federal environmental review released for public comment last month suggested there would be no effects on salmon populations, opposition to the project remains among some First Nations groups, including the Lax Kw’alaams who have Lelu Island within their traditional territory,  and among environmental groups.

Cullen says that with Shell now buying BG Group, the Prince Rupert LNG project may not proceed simply because Shell is the lead partner in  the LNG Canada project at Kitimat which is significantly further along in the development phase. That would make the Ridley Island location available, he said.

Cullen did caution that any shift in Pacific NorthWest LNG location would require a complete environmental review, and he noted that companies cannot be compelled to undertake massive shifts in project plans.

But those same companies could generate a tremendous amount of goodwill and cooperation from various parties, Cullen added. “If there’s ever a region that needs economic hope, this is it,” said Cullen.

The MP even suggested there might be a role for the federal government to play in any project location change inasmuch as it needs to promote economic development.

He also said anything he might be able to do would acknowledge conversations among the Lax Kwa’alaams and the Metlakatla into locations of prospective LNG projects.

“I would be really cognizant of the process they’re working through,” he said.