The most recent turn of events regarding the cancellation of the Pacific Northwest LNG facility in Prince Rupert hit local business communities and affected First Nations with a resounding thud.
There was a faint hope that with the previous cancellation of the British Gas LNG proposal, the Petronas facility would be moved from the contentious site at Lelu Island next door to the already developed Ridley Island. Although anything is possible, it looks like largest single private investment in Canadian history and all that it entails will not happen right in our back yard.
I mentioned in a previous column, that along with many others, I personally hoped to see this development come to fruition but I was also hopeful that an alternative location could be found to accommodate those who passionately defended the potential damage to the Skeena fishery. Sadly, this does not look like it will happen and we may have lost a generational opportunity for a home grown industry where we could have been world leaders in safe and efficient energy transportation. Just as generations of Mohawks from Kahnawake are famous for walking and building the high steel in eastern cities, it’s possible the Tsimshian men and women of Lax Kwalaams and the other residents of the area could have become respected welders and fabricators working all over the globe in the LNG and the petroleum industry.
Opposition to the project was divided into multiple, but two leading, camps. There are those who remain opposed to every single proposal on the grounds that the petroleum industry in any shape, form or location is not good for the Canadian economy, the environment or both. They are completely opposed to the exploration, drilling, and processing that is required to bring the natural gas from the ground, squeeze it into a pipe, chill it and send it off to the other side of the planet where the process is reversed. There were other opponents who support some development, but fought this plan due to its proposed location on Lelu Island due to its possible damage to the Skeena river salmon rearing grounds.
Those opposed to the industry as a whole would have us believe that petroleum development of any sort is a white elephant and that it’s already gone the way of the unicorn. It’s very likely that one day our great grandchildren may find our addiction to fossil fuels curious and possibly condemn us for it, but regardless of what Mr. Weaver and others would have us believe, it’s not going away anytime soon, and especially not in rural and remote areas. Nearly every fishing boat in the ocean and even Greenpeace’s own Rainbow Warrior still run on diesel fuel.
After Petronas made the decision not to proceed, critics on both sides scrambled to blame either the incoming GreeNDP coalition, the ousted Provincial Liberals or the Federal Liberal Government. There was also plenty of blame and venom directed towards a small group of so-called “First Nations Radicals” seen as primarily responsible for stopping this project. After hundreds of press releases, social media posts and editorials produced and put forward by both sides, it certainly looks like the opponents and proponents were further apart than ever.
Regardless of the demise of PNW LNG, it must be noted that there is very real physical work ongoing in Kitimat and that Kitimat LNG currently has the support of the District of Kitimat, the Haisla Nation and the overwhelming number of residents of Terrace and Kitimat. Let us hope that those people and groups opposed to developing anything, in what they portray as a “pristine rain forest” in their aggressive media campaigns, do not redirect their generous funding to extinguish another potential light at the end of the tunnel. Above all else, we must also hope that the economic well-being of the North is not sacrificed yet again to stabilize a flimsy power sharing agreement with a tiny number of out of touch Green Party MLAs centered on Southern Vancouver Island.
While our future survival does not entirely depend on mega projects, it certainly would be nice to experience some of the prosperity and growth that the rest of Western Canada seems to take for granted.