By Gerald Amos, Greg Knox, and Des Nobles
“The cleanest LNG in the world,” and “100,000 new jobs.”
These are among the many promises being made by government and industry about the benefits of LNG development.
There is strong support for LNG development from some First Nations who–despite being fiercely opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project–are determined to address the chronic issues of poverty in their communities. Other First Nations have refused permission for any type of pipeline to cross their lands.
Some folks don’t want Terrace transformed into a Fort McMurray, while others are simply trying to get by and welcome the economic boom we are in. Most in the Northwest understand that successful major resource development is never as easy as a press release by a prime minister, premier or cabinet minister.
While our region has witnessed dozens of developments proposed and subsequently abandoned over the decades, we’ve never faced a push for major resource development quite so complex and challenging to understand as LNG.
In fact, there are so many proposed projects that it’s impossible to keep track–it is overwhelming and difficult to fully understand their merits and impacts.
It was easy to see that coal bed methane development in the headwaters of three major salmon rivers was simply a stupid idea, and almost all of us understand the risks of oil tankers on our coast–that the promises from Enbridge are empty beyond belief.
We were adamant about fish farms, because we saw that farmed salmon and wild salmon in the same waters led to horrific consequences around the world. We live here because of family and heritage, the wonderful richness of life in a small community, and the overwhelming physical beauty of mountain towns and wild salmon rivers.
But the economic issues we’ve faced regionally, as smelter jobs disappeared and the forest industry nosedived, are all too recent memories. It’s hard to appreciate the river, mountains and salmon when you’re worried about taking care of your family.
But if this were just about jobs and not about any of these other values that most of us share, then it’s really not that far to travel to Fort McMurray.
We need to figure this LNG thing out. We know there are questions about LNG that aren’t being asked or answered, and many folks, supporters and opponents, are troubled about the sheer pace and scale of what is being proposed.
There are serious questions about air quality, greenhouse gasses, increases in tanker traffic, First Nation’s rights and title issues, and social issues that haven’t been answered.
Local health care experts, legal professionals and frontline workers are already worried about rapidly increasing social problems associated with the present boom.
We’re starting to understand that boom times bring drugs, violence (usually against women) and crime.
And when asking these questions, who do you believe, those that seem to be against any development, or the multinational energy companies whose purpose is to generate even more billions of dollars in profits?
As welcome as the present economic boom is, there is an increasing realization that these are issues that need to be addressed if the northwest is going to remain the incredible place to live that it is.
Increasingly we realize, and insist, that development projects must be examined cumulatively and not in isolation of each other, and that these considerations have to extend beyond just the environmental risks.
We need to talk about how much development is enough. What’s going to happen to the air we breathe? Are there consequences for wild salmon and water quality? How much natural gas do we want to leave for future generations in B.C.? What about fracking? What are the climate change impacts and where do our responsibilities lie? Is it really 100,000 jobs? Who gets those jobs? Do we really want to live in Fort McTerrace?
And most importantly, who gets to choose what kind of community we live in, the Chamber of Commerce, Malaysia’s state owned gas company or the people who live here?
To that end, residents of this region will be asking these questions over the coming months. We don’t presume to know all the answers to these questions, but we are going to try hard to present factual and unbiased information and provide a place where we can have a community conversation about these issues.
If we fail to do that – to be fair and balanced in presenting information – we expect to be held to account.
But we know that the quality of life in this region is worth talking about and protecting.
We know most people’s value systems extend beyond just money. Politicians and industry have not presented a balanced approach to these issues, so we, as citizens, need to do this on our own.
It’s our right, but more importantly, it’s our responsibility.
Signed on behalf of Friends of Wild Salmon by Gerald Amos, Kitamaat; Greg Knox, Terrace; Des Nobles, Prince Rupert. Friends of Wild Salmon is a coalition of community organizations, First Nations, commercial fishermen and anglers working to protect Skeena wild salmon.