Saturday, November 22, 2008

Enbridge looking for First nation partners in pipeline plans

The Northern Gateway Pipeline project is once again a going concern and Enbridge Incorporated is busy taking its message for development to northwest communities, having recently opened up two local offices in Terrace and Kitimat to better put their message out to the public.

The project is designed to provide for a twin pipeline between Kitimat and Bruderheim, Alberta, crossing many First Nation's lands and providing for a major injection of infrastructure and potential jobs in the Kitimat area.

Roger Harris the former Liberal cabinet minister is the point man in the Northwest for the project, having been assigned the title of Vice-President of Community and Aboriginal Partnerships for Enbridge, his task to provide a liaison with First Nation bands and other communities of the Northwest to try and seek out partnerships with Enbridge in bringing the project on line.

A project that may make for an interesting occupation considering the raft of issues that the First Nations have about the pipeline project and the impact it may have on their communities.
One possible approach according to the Dogwood Initiative, is that Enbridge may offer partial ownership of the pipeline to local First Nation communities, though Enbridge would according to a news report in the Prince George Citizen would still take on a majority share of the project.

The Enbridge website provides much of the same detail that the open houses so far have provided to those that may be interested, background information on the pipeline project and the impact that it may have on the Kitimat region.
The company will attempt to answer some of the questions and provide more information during a Prince Rupert open house in the first week of December set for the Coast Prince Rupert Hotel.

The Daily News outlined some of the local feedback on the project thus far, with an article in Thursday's paper.

Enbridge explaining its B.C. pipeline project
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 21, 2008
Pages one and five

Enbridge Inc. will bring its big pipeline plans to the North Coast on Dec. 2.

While the open house program coming to Prince Rupert is an attempt to inform all Ruperites about its proposed $4 billion pipeline project from Alberta to Kitimat, its specific target is the First Nations community living in and around the City of Rainbows.

That's because Enbridge wants to make them partners.

But one First Nations leader said he isn't rushing in to any deal.

Metlakatla elected chief Harold Leighton said that his band has yet to be contacted directly by Enbridge about the meeting, but there is a prior history between Enbridge and Metlakatla when talking about the pipeline.

"We do have plans on sitting down with them and talking about issues and concerns that Metlakatla have," said Leighton.

He added that normally these conversations do not take place out in the public sphere but in the privacy of the band’s office back in Metlakatla.

This isn’t the first time Enbridge had had a consultation process.

About two years ago, the pipeline operator held talks with most Northern B. C. First Nations, but they did not consult with Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams.

According to Leighton, that is what both band councils are looking for right now.

“We want to talk about our issues and the land- environment – those are our two priorities right now,” said Leighton.

The proposed pipeline would snake its way from Bruderheim, Alberta, just east of Edmonton, to Kitimat along what is called the Northwest Corridor. That would bring it in to Tsimshian territory, to which Metlakatla is a member tribe.

Going to Kitimat would be oil from the oil sands projects in Alberta and going back the other way would be oil thinner.

But this is not the first time a partnership arrangement with First Nations communities has been on offer.

In 2000, a similar arrangement was made with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and TransCanada Corp. when the APG was offered a third stake of the Mackenzie Pipeline running south from the Northwest Territories.

Leighton’s concerns about the proposed pipeline include its impact on salmon spawning rivers in traditional Tsimshian territory and the protection of those rivers.

Environmental protection continues to be a contentious issue for Northern First Nations when it comes to the pipeline.

The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, a representative council for eight bands just west of Prince George, has said it will not sign on to any deal with Enbridge at this point because it does not recognize the National Energy Board-led assessment process.

The last time a consultation process was broached by Enbridge back in 2006, First Nations bands requested $2.4 million in funding from the federal government so that they might spearhead their own environmental assessment.

So far, this request has been denied. And Leighton admits that he hasn’t spoken to the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council about Enbridge since 2006.

“We were part of the process earlier on but we have not attended meetings with them since, so we don’t’ know what their issues are but I know that when Enbridge decided to put this project on a shelf a while back, it was basically because of the concerns of the First Nations along the (project) line,” said Leighton.

Enbridge official Steve Greenway said Enbridge plans to file its application for approval with the NEB in 2009.

“What we are trying to do is get people really aware of what is going on with our plans and about the project. If they have any questions, we hope to answer them, and hopefully we can let people know about the opportunities and the benefits that can come to the North when we get our pipeline operational,” said Greenway.

Greenway could not answer exactly what a deal with First Nations community would look like, or whether or not a deal would be reached individually or collectively, saying that details have not been worked out yet.

“What we anticipate is that each individual band would have the opportunity to participate,” said Greenway.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who was just named NDP critic for Natural Resources and Energy, said that it is not automatic that North coast First Nation bands want in on the deal.
“I think it’s going to be a tough sell to the Haida and Tsimshian nations,” he said.

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