The environmental agency that oversees resource projects in British Columbia has put a portion of the Coastal Gaslink project on hold.
In a letter dated Feb. 19, 2020 to Joel Forrest, director of environmental, land, regulatory and law for TC Energy, Coastal Gaslink’s parent company, the Environmental Assessment Office, (EAO) wrote “After considering all of the information received during the review of COR2 (Coastal Gaslink’s environment impact report) the EAO has concluded that we are not able to approve COR2 at this time.
“The EAO has identified specific aspects of COR2 that will need to be updated or addressed in order to fulfil the requirements of Condition 1,” said the letter sent by Bernard Achampong, executive project director for the EAO.
The Coastal Gaslink pipeline is a $6.6-billion-project that will carry fracked natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C., to Kitimat on the coast where it will be processed and shipped to Asian markets.
Twenty elected First Nation band councils along the route have signed impact benefit agreements worth millions in employment spinoffs according to the company.
But five hereditary chiefs who claim control over their territory have been vehemently opposed to the project.
In January 2019, when members and supporters of the Wet’suwet’en nation blocked the Morice River Forest Service Road that leads to the construction site, the RCMP moved in. Fourteen people were arrested.
The road also leads to the Unist’ot’en healing centre.
The scene was repeated a year later when on Feb. 6, RCMP enforced a Dec. 31 injunction and cleared out the camps along the road paving the way for construction to begin again. More than two dozen were arrested.
In solidarity, protests erupted across the country, including alongside the CN Railway tracks outside Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
CN and Via Rail cancelled train service through the corridor two hours east of Toronto, one of the busiest in the country.
The hereditary chiefs are demanding that all work on the pipeline cease, and CGL workers leave their territory.
The Mohawks say the protest won’t stop unless the RCMP leave Wet’suwet’en territory.
(Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs sit alongside allies from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory at a news conference Friday. Photo: Jamie Pashagumskum/APTN)
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a news conference in Ottawa to say that the “barricades must come down.”
“We have exhausted our capacity to engage in a positive, substantive and active way to resolve this,” Trudeau said.
The EAO in B.C. is asking for two requirements to be fulfilled specifically; “How Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge was gathered and incorporated,” into CGL’s impact report, and a request “that the approach to gathering this information and the results be respectfully and appropriately presented when possible.”
The agency is also asking for additional information regarding the “opportunities CGL provided to Indigenous nations to be involved (e.g., who was involved, what role). Efforts made to respectfully and appropriately gather and present the information provided.”
The EAO started a review of Condition 1, back in November 2019. It sought comments from the Uni’stot’en camp (Dark House) and other agencies involved in the project’s decision making process.
“After consideration of the feedback received and on the basis of our own reviews, the EAO requested clarification and additional information from CGL in relation to a number of in particular: the selection of valued components; the consistency of the methodology used to assess particular valued components with the Application Information Requirements; the incorporation of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge; and, how feedback from Indigenous nations had been responded to and addressed,” said the letter first reported by Riccochet media.
The next steps for the company are spelled out in the four-page letter.
“CGL must also make efforts to engage with Dark House and any applicable Indigenous nation to discuss the memos, and receive or discuss any additional information within this 30 day period,” the letter said. “CGL must track all engagement efforts, any feedback received and how it was addressed, incorporated or otherwise considered. A summary of the engagement, including engagement opportunities must be provided to the EAO. Following this 30 day period, CGL may update and resubmit COR2 to the EAO for our approval.”
A spokesman for CGL said “this short delay” won’t affect the company’s spring construction schedule.
“Coastal GasLink will respond to the issues raised in the letter by the EAO and attempt to engage with Dark House on issues raised in their correspondence to the EAO,” Terry Cunha said in an email to APTN News.
“Despite Dark House’ refusal to meet with Coastal GasLink over Condition 1 in December, Coastal GasLink hopes that engagement commences shortly to ensure Dark House concerns are addressed in the Condition 1 30-day process.”