Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pipelines through native land. Developments in Northern British Columbia.

Oil and gas retrieved in Canada's most northern parts and Alberta's tar sands is generally speaking geographically far from 'world markets'. Proposals to fix this with new pipelines have faced delays because of such things as environmental risks highlighted by the those that rely on the land for other sources of income. For instance, this is among the reasons for the delay of the KeystoneXL pipeline, proposed to bring Alberta's oil to refineries in Southern USA.

The other route is to bring the oil and gas westwards through British Columbia, where it can reach the coast, and carriers can ship it to Asia, where major demand growth is expected to come from for the future. Although these proposals too ran in objections of First Nations, and alternative route, proposed by another company, has recently won their support.

Many pipeline proposals for the route west have run in strong opposition from First Nations in Alberta. Their opposition is to large extent based on the risk that a pipeline poses to their traditional hunting and fishing ground. Although poverty is major problem in some of those communities, proposals by international construction companies have not everyones favour. "The answer is still no" [], a book consisting of series of interviews conducted by two academics with representatives of the region, details their arguments and objections to such plans, in this case particular the one proposed by Enbridge.

An another gas pipeline was recently rejected by Lax Kwa'laams who where offered CA$1B for their consent of a gas terminal on their lands, an island in front of the B.C. main coast in the region of Price Rupert, at the mount of the Skeena river. The dangers that the first nation sees has both to do with the construction phase, that could harm marine life in an area used by salmon to mature before moving up-river, the impact of pipeline on the seabed marine life, as well as the impact on marine environment of daily arrival and departure of LNG carriers. For these reason they recently rejected the plan (CBC.caGlobe and

As these articles highlight, and is also part of the discussions in the "The answer is still no", it is not that First Nations reject every such development, although this is occasionally how it is portrayed (sometimes quite viciously, labelling environment protestors and first nations terrorists, Globe and Mail, see also the recent interview with the newly elected Ms Universe, Ashley Callingbull-Burnham). A direct competitor proposal to the Enbridge pipeline, Eagle Spirit Energy Holding, recently gained (, the support of First Nations, including those of Lax Kwa'laams. The trick? Eagle Spirit offers [] a different stake in the project to first nations, proposes a route that circumvents more of the vulnerable waters, going more through grounds of first nations supportive of the plan, and ends in a different area at the coast where it is expected to cause less environmental harm to the wider region. It helped too that the company is headed by members of local first nations, and the plan was made in direct consultation with first nations in B.C. and in cooperation with first nations in Alaska and Alberta. This contrasts with the lack of sincere consultation of Enbridge as perceived by First Nations.

The underlying dynamics are about balancing the (deemed inevitable) development of arctic and other previously hard to extract natural resources, the impact of such developments on local communities to their traditional income sources (forestry, fishing, hunting etc), their (hedonistic) value of the local environment and the benefits that may accrue to local communities from resource extraction. A non-negligible factor also appears to be the process through which these plans are pushed through and property rights. Much of the power of first nations comes from their rights as traditional dwellers of the land, whereas the federal and provincial government still tends to see these lands as theirs, or crown land, to do with as they please.

Although I tried my best, I'm not entirely confident that I presented all facts and views entirely correct. Comments are welcome below or by email.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reactions welcome! Please use your full name.