Northwest rises up against pipeline challenger

Multiple parties seek pipeline challenge participation, including City of Terrace, Kitselas

More than 45 northern governments, First Nations, indigenous organizations, companies, environmental groups, business associations and individuals have filed to act as interveners as the National Energy Board (NEB) takes its next steps in deciding if the natural gas pipeline to supply the $41 billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas plant at Kitimat should fall under its jurisdiction.

The list includes the City of Terrace, the Kitselas First Nation and LNG Canada’s owner/partners.

Although TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink’s $6.2 billion pipeline to run from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat has received provincial environmental approval, Smithers resident Michael Sawyer wants the project reviewed by the NEB.

He argues that the pipeline will ultimately connect to TransCanada’s existing NOVA Gas Transmission system and because that is federally regulated, Coastal GasLink’s pipeline should also come under federal jurisdiction.

Sawyer’s also been critical of the provincial environmental review, saying it was insufficient to consider the full impact of natural gas resource development.

To date the NEB has found Sawyer has an “arguable case” based on evidence he’s provided regarding TransCanada and its operations and as part of what it calls a “further process”, then invited interested parties to submit applications for standing.

The NEB has also been clear its decision is not a determination the Coastal GasLink pipeline does fall under federal jurisdiction.

Coastal GasLink itself has already been granted standing and there is no timeline as to when the NEB will decide its next steps.

“A decision regarding any subsequent procedural steps would only be made after the board determines who has standing,” it said in an Oct. 30 statement.

The prospect of further hearings now that LNG Canada has decided to go ahead with its project, called the single largest private sector investment in Canadian history, has raised fears in the northwest and elsewhere of delays or worse.

“In our view the Coastal GasLink project is critical to the economic viability of our community and as such we have a vested interest in how the project is regulated and the National Energy Board review of the project,” wrote Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc in requesting standing for the city.

Kitselas chief councillor Joe Bevan, in the Kitselas request for standing, noted the pipeline project is within the nation’s traditional territory and that it has given its consent to construction.

“Any efforts to prevent progress, delay, or cancel the project will result in a dire economic impact on our nation,” he wrote.

For its part, Shell Canada Ltd., which owns 40 per cent of LNG Canada, offered no comment in its application for standing but noted “its interests will be directly and sufficiently impacted by the board’s decision regarding jurisdiction….”

The Sierra Club BC allied itself with Sawyer, saying he has taken the initiative in the name of “public interest and regulatory fairness.”

“We believe Sierra Club BC has a unique and insightful perspective regarding jurisdictional issues on pipeline projects like Coastal GasLink as well as full lifecycle impacts beyond regulatory borders,” wrote club official Mark Worthing.

The Luutkudziiiwus house of the Gitxsan Nation in Hazelton said developments cannot be decided without full Indigenous participation.

“If allowed to proceed, it will affect our lands and waters and our members’ ability to exercise their rights and maintain their connection to their lands and way of life,” wrote house representative Charles Wright.

Federal Green party leader Elizabeth May was the only politician to file an application for standing.

“I have a specific interest in the scope of federal jurisdiction particularly as it relates to natural gas pipelines and other matters of environmental significance,” she stated.

While Coastal GasLink has already been granted standing by the NEB, Sawyer has not been granted standing and has had to file his own application.

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