In the first of three votes on a proposed $1 billion payment to Lax Kw’alaams First Nation members from Malaysian-based oil and gas giant Petronas in exchange for agreeing to the proposed Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, 180 eligible voters from the First Nation unanimously voted no to the LNG project.
Global News reports, “Residents have raised concerns over the project’s environmental impact, citing the site’s problematic location and the threat it poses to the watershed. ‘Why would you build an LNG plant right at the mouth of the Skeena River?; said [Lax Kw’alaams band member Malcolm] Sampson, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. ‘There of all places.’ Sampson said the $1.15-billion offer in benefits over 40 years was not discussed at all during the meeting, which took place in a school gym so packed that some band members had to stand outside. ‘Too much was at stake to wipe out a whole river’, said the father of eight and grandfather of 20.”
A community backgrounder notes that if the project proceeds Lelu Island will be effectively off bounds to Lax Kw’alaams members, that they won’t be able to harvest traditional plants and medicines, that as many as 432 culturally modified trees could be destroyed, and that associated pipeline on the seabed could alter access to traditional fishing grounds and contaminate salmon habitat through dredging.
The members of the First Nation will vote next in Prince Rupert today and tomorrow, and in Vancouver on May 11-12.
While these votes still have to happen, yesterday’s unanimous rejection is surely a setback for Petronas. Their $1 billion gambit was seen as a game-changer in the resource-extraction sector with the belief that if $1 billion isn’t enough to secure a First Nation’s agreement to an LNG project, what could possibly be offered that would.
The Council of Canadians is opposed to LNG terminals and pipelines given the associated fracking, water abuse, environmental damage and climate impacts that would result from them. For example, the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal would release an estimated 5.28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Corporation offers $1 billion to First Nation to support LNG terminal and pipeline (May 2015 blog)