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The Woodfibre LNG site on Howe Sound as work continues to prepare for construction, in Squamish, B.C., on July 5. Construction is expected to begin later this year on the liquefied natural gas export facility being built on the site, which was used as a pulp and paper operation for nearly 100 years before closing in 2006.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Three Indigenous leaders will be promoting plans to export liquefied natural gas from British Columbia, striving for economic growth as they work to address climate concerns when building new energy projects.

Karen Ogen, chief executive officer of the First Nations LNG Alliance, will appear at a Monday morning event before an international LNG conference in Vancouver with two elected leaders from B.C.’s North Coast: Crystal Smith, chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, and Eva Clayton, president of the Nisga’a Lisims government.

“For far too long, we were ignored in resource development, even on our own land,” the three women said in a statement on Sunday. “Fundamentally, reconciliation is impossible without a strong economic foundation to advance change.”

Their message is that the Haisla and Nisga’a are in favour of exporting LNG, and also show their support for other projects such as Woodfibre LNG, which is backed by the Squamish Nation.

Their gathering will take place ahead of opening ceremonies that will include land acknowledgements signifying the four-day LNG conference is being held on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

The David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute published separate studies in May that issued climate warnings about looming LNG exports from B.C. They say Canada’s focus should be on renewable energy, not on fossil fuels such as LNG.

Activists worried about climate change say that besides upstream emissions from fracking for natural gas, the carbon footprint from export terminals also undermines the LNG industry’s assertions of major advantages over coal.

But organizers of the LNG conference will feature panels in support of exports, such as a session titled Reconciliation and Canadian LNG: Indigenous Energy Leadership on the World Stage. That panel’s list of scheduled speakers includes the Haisla’s Ms. Smith and Woodfibre president Christine Kennedy.

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The Haisla co-own Cedar LNG with Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp.

The Haisla and Pembina received environmental approval for Cedar from the B.C. and federal governments in March. The proponents expect to make a final investment decision by the end of September on whether to forge ahead with their project at Kitimat, B.C.

The Nisga’a, Western LNG and a group of natural-gas producers called Rockies LNG are partners in their proposed Ksi Lisims LNG project near Gitlaxt’aamiks, which is home to the Nisga’a Lisims government led by Ms. Clayton.

Shell PLC-led LNG Canada would become the country’s first export terminal for the fuel when Phase 1 opens in 2025. The project is 85 per cent completed in Kitimat.

Vancouver was not the originally planned venue for the LNG conference because St. Petersburg, Russia, had been scheduled to be the host, LNG Canada chief executive officer Jason Klein said in an interview.

“But here we are, and a great opportunity for Vancouver and for B.C. to get on the global stage and to show what we can provide to the world,” said Mr. Klein, who is optimistic about LNG Canada’s chances to eventually forge ahead with a Phase 2 expansion.

The LNG conference is normally held once every three years, though after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022, the venue was changed to Vancouver and the timing of the gathering delayed by more than a year.

LNG Canada’s initial capacity has been set at 14 million tonnes a year of exports to Asia, compared with Ksi Lisims’ 12 million tonnes a year.

An example of partnerships between companies and Indigenous groups is the HaiSea Marine joint venture between Seaspan ULC and the Haisla. HaiSea secured a $500-million contract to provide tug services for LNG Canada’s shipping. One of the battery-powered tugboats will be on display on Monday in waters near the LNG conference.

“We fought tooth and nail for that HaiSea contract,” said Ellis Ross, a member of the B.C. legislature and former chief councillor of the Haisla. “It was huge and very symbolic for us.”

Besides LNG Canada, Cedar and Ksi Lisims, there are two other projects for exports using tankers that remain active in B.C.: Woodfibre LNG near Squamish and expansion plans at FortisBC’s domestic Tilbury LNG site in Delta.

Ksi Lisims LNG set to undergo B.C.-led environmental review

In 2019, the elected leaders of the Haisla, Nisga’a, Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla created the First Nations Climate Initiative as a think tank, which argues that exporting LNG is compatible with supporting climate action.

The Lax Kw’alaams, however, subsequently suspended their participation in the climate initiative.

The elected Lax Kw’alaams band council is opposing Ksi Lisims, which would be Canada’s second-largest terminal for exporting LNG. “The evidence is strong that proceeding with the project will induce B.C.’s failure to meet its climate targets,” the Lax Kw’alaams said in a March letter to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

The contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline being built by TC Energy Corp. would transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat. The 670-kilometre route is 90 per cent completed.

About 190 kilometres of the pipeline route cross the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s unceded traditional territory. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLink say they have jurisdiction over that territory.

Woodfibre, Enbridge Inc., TC Energy, LNG Canada, Ksi Lisims and Cedar are among the exhibitors at the sprawling trade show that will run concurrently with the conference. Other exhibitors from Canada include natural-gas producers such as Tourmaline Oil Corp., ARC Resources Ltd. and Birchcliff Energy Ltd.

Large modules would need to be assembled onshore for Woodfibre’s liquefaction plant, which would run on hydroelectricity to reduce GHG emissions. The project is to be built on a former pulp-mill site, which is located on the Squamish Nation’s traditional territory.

“We’ll be buying electricity from BC Hydro to power our compressors to create the LNG,” said Calvin Stuckert, Woodfibre’s environmental and Indigenous affairs specialist.

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Plans also call for floating LNG storage tanks to be in place in the waters of Howe Sound, minimizing the project’s footprint on the industrial lands, Mr. Stuckert said during a media tour last week of Woodfibre’s site.

The EAO is the lead regulator in a collaborative review process with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the Squamish Nation.

Climate activists from groups such as the Wilderness Committee and My Sea to Sky oppose Woodfibre.

Construction costs are forecast to total US$5.1-billion, including the Squamish-area export terminal and other expenses, notably those related to FortisBC’s proposed Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline.

Calgary-based Enbridge owns 30 per cent of Woodfibre, while Pacific Energy Corp. Ltd. controls the remaining 70-per-cent interest.

While the United States already has seven LNG export terminals, it isn’t too late for Canada to get into the game, said Paul Sullivan, Houston-based senior vice-president of global LNG at engineering company Worley Ltd.

“There’s a great opportunity still,” Mr. Sullivan said.

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