Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lax Kw'alaams reverses position on Lelu Island; now says will support LNG development with two conditions

The twisting trail towards a Final Environmental decision on the Pacific NorthWest LNG project received one more surprise late Friday afternoon, with word that Mayor John Helin of Lax Kw'alaams had forwarded a correspondence on March 15th  to Catherine McKenna the Federal Minister of the Environment.

A letter which reverses the official position of opposition to the project by the elected Council of the First Nation community, comes after what the Council calls further consultation with its members and provides two conditions that must be met.

Those two conditions include the provision that the proponent Pacific NorthWest LNG do the following:

1. report to an Environmental Performance Committee. including Lax Kw'alaams Band, CEAA and other federal representatives on all environmental monitoring work and follow-up programs required in the Decision Statement,


2. respond to any compliance or. enforcement actions being proposed or recommended by an Environmental Performance Committee that oversees and make recommendations to CEAA or any other relevant federal agencies with respect to potential compliance or enforcement actions related to the conditions in the Decision Statement.

The letter was included as part of the CEAA commentary process related to the Pacific NorthWest LNG environment assessment  (see below, click to enlarge)

Page 1 of March 15th correspondence

Page 2 of March 15th correspondence

Attachment to March 15th correspondence

The letter of reversal on the Lax Kw'alaams position comes but a few short days after a March 7th correspondence to the CEAA that had reinforced the opposition of the community to the proposed development.

That letter covered much of the previous concerns that the community had with the proposed project and reinforced many of the findings of a scientific study conducted by Lax Kw'alaams, a study that the Lax Kw'alaams government provided in full on their website on March 13th.

The copy of that letter stresses the fundamental importance to the Lax Kw'alaams that this project be altered to provide an alternative site for the LNG facility, docking and ship loading facility.

March 7 letter page 1
March 7 letter page 2

March 7 letter page 3
March 7 letter page 4

March 7 letter page 5

(Click on images above to enlarge)

There have been few public comments yet from the Hereditary Chiefs as to the latest change in opinion in Lax Kw'alaams. However, as part of the flow of information on the twitter feed for CBC Daybreak's George Baker, the initial comments from Hereditary Chief Don Wesley on Friday afternoon quickly found their way into the day's conversation. Indicating some of the tone of concern that is now starting to arrive from that corner of the discussion.

The Globe and Mail on Friday followed the story on Friday as well featuring a range of commentary on the developments, noting that Mr. Wesley had vowed to fight the project to the end, whether the Band Council was on their side or not.

The environmental groups of the Northwest also appear to have been caught by surprise as well, with no mention of the shift in direction from Lax Kw'alaams yet noted on any of their information portals, which all continue to stay the course against any form of development on Lelu island.

Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (facebook) (website)
Friends of Wild Salmon (facebook) (website)
Prince Rupert Environmental Society (facebook)

Mayor John Helin has not to this point issued a public statement on the reversal of the Lax Kw'alaams position.

The surprising change of direction comes during a week where the neighbouring Metlakatla First Nation announced two separate arrangements with pipeline proponents that have provided for a range of financial benefits for that community.

The move of Lax Kw'alaams to offer its tentative support to the project, providing those two conditions are met comes as the Federal Environment Minister prepares to make a decision on the fate of the environmental assessment process.

Some reports out of Ottawa in recent days have suggested that Catherine McKenna the Environment Minister may turn to the Federal cabinet to examine the assessment process and to make the required Federal decision for the project.

It would appear that by changing direction on its commentary related to the Lelu Island project, Lax Kw'alaams in addition to joining in on the discussion on the terminal development and opportunities to explore potential benefits that may come from it, may also be able to put some distance between the community and any fall out that may come from a possible negative decision from the Federal cabinet.

The Lax Kw'alaams letter joins a flood of last minute information that is competing for the attention of the Minister and the Cabinet as they prepare to review the CEAA report and announce a decision.

Included in those missives to the Minister is some final thoughts

Prince Rupert LNG terminal could become largest source of GHG emissions in Canada, environmental group warns
Tensions tighten as Ottawa prepares decision on Pacific NorthWest LNG
Pacific NorthWest LNG may face further delays
BC LNG approval deadline next week 'premature' as feds review documents
Approval decision for Pacific NorthWest LNG may be delayed
Lax Kw'alaams band council offers conditional support for Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal

Included in those correspondences and messages for the Minister are some final thoughts on the issue from NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who continues to call the process flawed and the location of the proposed site as wrong.

The list of documentation and correspondences of this week add to an already lengthy file on the Pacific NorthWest LNG project which you can examine here.

For more on the lengthy process of overview related to the project, you can review some of our catalogue of items ranging from the earliest to the latest from our archive page here.

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