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Energy and Resources LNG Canada CEO vows to press ahead with gas project facing protests

Andy Calitz, CEO of the LNG Canada, is photographed during an interview in Toronto, Ont., with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Oct. 15, 2018.

Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

The chief executive officer of LNG Canada says it may not be possible to gain unanimous support for Canadian energy projects, and vows to press ahead with constructing an $18-billion liquefied-natural-gas terminal on the West Coast even as a group of hereditary chiefs opposes the pipeline that would feed the plant.

"B.C. and Canada are resource rich, but at the moment, those resources are having a very difficult time getting to market,” Andy Calitz said in a prepared speech in Prince George, B.C., on Tuesday night.

He said media coverage has focused on the Unist’ot’en protest camp’s battle against TransCanada Corp.'s Coastal GasLink, but there is strong support among elected Indigenous groups for the northern B.C. terminal planned for Kitimat and the $6.2-billion pipeline.

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“Regardless of the headlines and the protests, LNG Canada has every intention to complete our project,” he said. “We have every intention to deliver the jobs and economic benefits we committed for First Nations, for local residents and skilled tradespeople across all Northern communities.”

Mr. Calitz made the comments in his first speech since the RCMP arrested 14 protesters on Jan. 7 at a police checkpoint along a remote B.C. logging road that leads to the Unist’ot’en camp. Unist’ot’en is affiliated with Dark House, one of 13 hereditary house groups belonging to the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

Coastal GasLink plans to construct a 670-kilometre pipeline that would transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat. The export terminal, for shipping LNG to Asian markets, will be built by LNG Canada, a consortium led by Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

The pipeline has been approved by all 20 elected bands along the route and Coastal GasLink has conditionally awarded $620-million in contracts to Indigenous businesses in the region. LNG Canada estimates that the value of its contracts and subcontracts with local First Nations so far exceeds $175-million.

“I’m not convinced that it’s possible for major infrastructure projects in British Columbia to get unanimous support. Our project is a case in point,” Mr. Calitz said at the B.C. Natural Resources Forum. “The conversation about hereditary versus elected systems of governance, and which hereditary leaders speak for Indigenous people, is a conversation I will leave to other people to resolve.”

The Unist’ot’en blockade on the Morice River bridge came down on Jan. 11, after the RCMP and Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders agreed to a deal to comply with an interim court injunction that is effective until May 31.

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

Kitimat

ALTA.

Prince

George

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice R. Forest Service Rd.

TransCanada’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

ALTA.

Kitimat

Prince

George

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice River Forest Service Rd.

TransCanada’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp;

thetyee.ca

Dawson

Creek

ALASKA

Site of protests near Morice River

Houston

ALTA.

Kitimat

Prince

George

Haida

Gwaii

16

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Banks

Island

97

Unist’ot’en

Camp

0

80

KM

Morice River

Kamloops

Morice River

Bridge

Coastal GasLink’s

pipeline project

Morice River Forest Service Rd.

TransCanada’s

existing gas

transmission

system

0

1

KM

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, source: b.c. rcmp; thetyee.ca

Mr. Calitz noted that there has been widespread media coverage of Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans and the Unist’ot’en blockade that had prevented Coastal GasLink workers from gaining access to a portion of the pipeline route. “What hasn’t made it into these stories are the names of the many Nations that chose to stand up in support of our projects,” he said, adding that most hereditary chiefs from other Indigenous groups across British Columbia have backed LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink.

On Monday, a group led by Canadian musicians issued an open letter to back the group of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are fighting against Coastal GasLink. Nearly 300 people, including stars from Canada’s indie-music industry, released their “Solidarity with Unist’ot’en statement" to criticize the “continued invasion of unceded Wet’suwet’en land by Coastal GasLink pipeline workers.”

But Mr. Calitz said members of the Haisla Nation are vocal supporters of LNG Canada, whose export terminal will be built on the Haisla’s traditional territory. Other First Nations that endorse the Kitimat terminal include the Kitselas, Gitxaala, Kitsumkalum and Gitga’at.

Five of the 20 elected bands that support the pipeline belong to the Wet’suwet’en Nation: Wet’suwet’en First Nation (formerly known as the Broman Lake Indian Band), Burns Lake, Nee Tahi Buhn, Skin Tyee and Witset.

“There is far too much at stake for LNG Canada not to defend our project,” Mr. Calitz said. “LNG Canada respects the rights of individuals to peacefully express their point of view, as long as their activities don’t jeopardize people’s safety and are within the law."

Drilling in northeast B.C. is expected to increase during 2021-24, in order to feed natural gas for LNG exports to Asia by late 2024 or early 2025.

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