This past week, Huu-ay-aht First Nations citizens voted 70% in favour of developing and co-managing a liquefied natural gas facility with Steelhead LNG. The facility would be located in Sarita Bay, which is on the west coast of Vancouver Island, on traditional Huu-ay-aht territory.
They are the first B.C. Nation to approve the co-management development of a liquefied natural gas facility. The agreement also guarantees Huu-ay-aht an equity share in the project, and the results of their vote means they will move forward in developing a partnership with Steelhead LNG. The achievement of informed consent from Huu-ay-aht citizens at this early stage of the project is a groundbreaking first and creates a level of certainty for both parties as well as for investors and government.
Huu-ay-aht’s executive council is pleased, as the project will potentially bring new opportunities for economic growth in the community and provide new access to international business markets. Huu-ay-aht Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council (Hereditary Chiefs) are also in full support of the project. Speaking to the respectful relationship between Steelhead LNG and Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters, Head Hereditary Chief) said at a press conference on Monday:
“It was important while going through this project and building this relationship, that our cultures, traditions, sacred sites, land and environment were a part of the conversation… our chiefs were not willing to have any of these conversations if this was not included. That’s part of the respect that goes along with this relationship that we’ve built.”
For the 750 Huu-ay-aht citizens, this project could create new job opportunities and raise their standard of living to that of the rest of Canada. At the press conference Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. said: “It’s our objective that our people will have a living wage where they can afford to live in their homeland. That is our focus. We not only want to close the gap but let us start being the benefactors of the wealth of the natural resources in Canada.”
Nigel Kuzemko, Steelhead LNG’s CEO, expressed his respect for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations at the press conference, saying he is glad to be setting precedents for Aboriginal relations with industry. The B.C. government welcomes the news, calling it a “significant step toward securing a strong, diversified clean natural gas export industry in British Columbia.”
The facility would be fed by natural gas from northeastern B.C. and Alberta, using a combination of existing and new pipelines, and would be shipped to Asia to meet their energy needs. Steelhead LNG is considering different options for getting the gas to the facility, but would prefer to use existing pipeline. The National Energy Board has approved Steelhead LNG’s licences to export 24 million tonnes of LNG per year over 25 years through the facility. The project is still in its early stages, but a Final Investment Decision is expected as early as 2019, and the facility is predicted to be operating by 2024.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations estimates the project will create 3,000-4,000 direct jobs during construction and 300-400 direct jobs during its operation.
Photo Credit: Steelhead LNG