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 May 06, 2009
Gateway Pipeline: First Nations Still Have Concerns

 $1billion plus. That is what some B.C. First Nations stand to gain in profits, taxes  and business opportunities from the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project.  

That did not stop a small group of First Nations leaders from travelling to Toronto yesterday to voice their dissent to Enbridge Inc., the project’s proponent, during the company’s annual meeting.  

Although the project has received environmental approval from both provincial and federal governments, some First Nations are angry that the review process has taken place without their involvement.  

"Our people are quite knowledgeable about [climate change]," said Gerald Amos of the coastal Haisla First Nation. "[We] understand that if we become a part of this, and we buy into it, ultimately it’s not just going to impact us."  

Alphonse Gagnon, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief who joined in the protest observed that most B.C. First Nations have never signed land treaties. "We haven’t relinquished our rights to our territory... We will do whatever it takes to defend our lands and waters against this threat from Enbridge," he said.  

The $4billion, 1,170km pipeline project would loop through the territory of 16 First Nations settlements and will deliver bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to a coastal liquid natural gas (LNG) plant at Kitimat, which is Haisla property.  

The proposed plant will have 14 storage facilities and receive about 225 ship calls per year travelling to and from foreign markets in Asia. Currently the only market for oil sands bitumen is south of the border, where concerns are mounting about the high carbon-emissions from oil sands mining. Developing an overseas market is one way to ensure exports remain ongoing if the U.S. loses interest.  

The original project, drafted in 2006, drew harsh criticism from First Nation communities along the planned pipeline route and was postponed after the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council launched a court case against the federal government for failure to consult them in the environmental review process.  

This past June, Enbridge resumed the planning process and similar trends began to unfold when research suggested that mining was having a negative affect on the health of aboriginal communities surrounding the tar sands. Shortly thereafter, the billion dollar offer was extended.  

B.C. has agreed to provide $32million for initial ownership stake, a deal First Nations say the federal government should match. Although details are still in review,  Enbridge Inc. has agreed to provide a 30%  equity share of the pipeline as well as several million in annual benefits when the plant is built.  

Haisla First Nation stands to receive $4 million annually in lease payments for the LNG plant, up to $18 million per year in property taxes, and a marine transportation contract worth $12 million a year. Over the next three decades, First Nation communities along the pipeline stand to be rewarded upwards of $540 million annually.  

B.C. First Nations have been increasingly successful in battling development projects. In February two separate appeals were won against B.C. Hydro when they failed to consult the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and several south-central first nations over electricity purchases and the development of a $700million transmission line running from interior B.C. to the Greater Vancouver area.  

For More Information: Vancouver Sun