Nisga’a Lisims Government president Mitchell Stevens says he’s surprised as anyone over speculation Enbridge might be looking at a new route, even one through the Nisga’a treaty lands of the Nass Valley, for its Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline.
“I have no idea where this may have come from,” said Stevens after the Nass Valley was mentioned in reports which surfaced the end of April from Alberta premier Rachel Notley speaking to federal cabinet ministers about a new Northern Gateway route.
Speculation of a new Northern Gateway route has been tied to other reports that the federal government is quietly looking at ways to move Alberta crude to the west coast despite opposition to either a new pipeline or an expansion of Trans Mountain’s existing Kinder Morgan line from Alberta to the lower mainland.
“Right now Enbridge has a fully permitted pipeline to the Douglas Channel. No one from Enbridge has contacted us,” said Stevens of Northern Gateway which has already received federal government approval, albeit with 209 conditions, to build the pipeline at a cost of $7.9 billion from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.
At the same time, the National Energy Board has recommended the $6.8 billion Kinder Morgan project be approved.
And should any pipeline company approach the Nisga’a Lisims Government, Steven said it would be obligated to consider any proposed project through a rigorous examination of environmental and other impacts as well as for any economic and other benefits.
“That provision is in Chapter 10 of the Nisga’a Final Agreement,” said Stevens of the 2000 agreement between the Nisga’a and the federal and provincial government which provided both land and governmental authority over those lands.
“It’s a constitutionally-protected agreement.”
“Any project would be duly considered within Nisga’a laws before any final decision is made,” Stevens added.
The Nisga’a have used Chapter 10 before, chiefly with the now-shelved Alloycorp proposal to develop a $1 billion molybdenum mine at Kitsault on the north coast.
The Nisga’a had to resort to a dispute resolution provision within the Nisga’a treaty with the provincial government to enforce its Chapter 10 rights after which it did approve of the mine development.
Stevens said that now sets a precedent for any future proposals for development in the Nass Valley area.
As it is, two pipelines are already proposed to cross over Nisga’a lands, both of which would carry natural gas to proposed liquefied natural gas plants near Prince Rupert.
For one of those pipelines, TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission which would pump natural gas to the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project, the Nisga’a have negotiated an option to use some of its capacity.
It wants to use that option to attract a LNG developer of its own to the Nass Valley area.
For its part, Enbridge official Ivan Giesbrecht said they’re focused on the Northern Gateway project as it now stands and that it won’t indulge in any route change speculation.
The company recently asked federal regulators for a three-year extension of its permit which now requires it to begin construction by the end of the year.
That permit was granted in 2014 and Enbridge says it has since that time been working on meeting the 209 conditions laid down before work can begin.
“Northern Gateway is consulting with First Nation and Metis communities and other stakeholders to chart a path forward for the project,” said Giesbrecht.
“As part of these ongoing discussions, environmental sustainability is always a priority. Any significant developments on any aspect of the project would be communicated publicly at the appropriate time and done in conjunction with our aboriginal equity partners,” he said.
The reference to aboriginal equity partners is a collection of Metis and First Nations communities who have signed on to take an ownership stake in Northern Gateway.