Opinion: 190 Conditions On LNG Approval Put First Nations In Driver’s Seat

Most of the media coverage of the federal government’s approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project has been presented as a positive outcome for industry and government, and a negative one for First Nations. The simple truth is, not all First Nations are opposed to the project. In fact, many along the project’s route are in favour, and here’s why.

A total of 190 conditions have been set in order to enforce regulations on the proposed pipeline project, resulting in high standards which the proponent must meet in order for it to go ahead. In terms of environmental impacts, strict requirements have been set which will ensure any possible impact is identified and mitigated. Furthermore, the proponent is required to consult First Nations groups in both project development planning, as well as follow-up monitoring, to ensure the interests of impacted nations are protected.

First Nations will participate in the following areas, in both planning and monitoring capacities:

Air quality and greenhouse gas emissions
The proponent will include First Nations in these assessments, ensuring impacts are mitigated to their standards, not only to federal and provincial targets.

Wetlands affected
The proponent is required to develop a wetlands compensation plan that restores any areas that might be damaged by the project.

Fish habitat
Freshwater fish impacts will be monitored to ensure a minimum risk of acidification and eutrophication in affected areas, including in the Wolf Creek system, the Hays Creek system, Alwyn Lake and two headwater lakes on Kaien Island.

Marine life
There will be extensive modelling and testing to assess whether the initial estimates of impacts to marine life match the actual outcomes. This will be an ongoing process that also includes offsetting any loss of fish and habitat in the local environment. Monitoring will also take place in Chatham Sound.

Migratory birds
The proponent and First Nations groups will develop a follow-up plan to assess the status of migratory birds and work to correct any irregularities the project may create.
Current land uses for cultural practices – Any heritage sites or structures that may exist in the project area will be relocated with First Nations oversight. This includes the relocation of traditionally used plants and trees.

Human health and noise levels
First Nations will work with the proponent to develop response protocols for any impacts on human health, as many communities rely on marine food that comes from areas the project will affect. Additionally, noise levels and light output will be monitored and minimized.

The proponent will also be required to establish protocols with First Nations to monitor the construction of the project. Not only will these nations set the standard for what is deemed acceptable impact mitigation, they will also be integral to the way problems are resolved if any arise.

The conditions provide a strong reference point for First Nations engagement and ensure that appropriate steps are taken by the proponent over the course of the project. Ultimately, it shows respect for our rights and concerns, and is a great example of how engaging with the proponent provides a vehicle for nations to make sure their voices are heard and that decisions benefit their interests.

Compliance with the conditions will ensure impacted communities will oversee and limit the impacts of the project — placing First Nations directly in the driver’s seat.

By Crystal Smith, Board Member, First Nations LNG Alliance

Article oringally appeared on Huffington Post online, October 12, 2016.
Image source: Huffington Post