Opinion: LNG will be an important part of B.C.’s future

An article by our CEO, Karen Ogen, published by The Vancouver Sun on August 4, 2017:

Karen Ogen, CEO

As supporters of responsible LNG development in B.C., we were saddened to hear of the cancellation of Petronas’ Pacific NorthWest LNG project, and the benefits it promised to First Nations and others.

We are also alarmed to see a flurry of attacks on social media, directed at Indigenous people and entities who support LNG, and to see gloating by opponents of Petronas project. As civil people, we need a respectful public discourse to discuss these issues. These are serious and controversial issues worthy of raising all viewpoints.

While the siting of Pacific NorthWest LNG generated strong concerns about the environment and fisheries, all concerned were working hard to resolve those issues. The environment is vital to First Nations, especially when it comes to advancing such large projects.

We believe in sustainably developed projects, which can happen only when we are at the table. Indeed, I believe it is our duty to be stewards of our territory and engage on these projects to ensure our values and our territories are protected. Just saying no is not a viable option for most, which is why you see the high degree of support as evidenced by agreements among First Nations, B.C. and LNG proponents.

I believe the abundance of LNG in our province will make it to international markets over the long term. Petronas may be gone, but the development of this resource is a long-term multi-billion-dollar play. Our neighbours to the south have already got LNG to international markets while we’ve been stuck, and they plan on getting more out. As far as people’s comments about the so-called closing window — let’s open it with the remaining projects in play.

I am hopeful that our new government will help our entry into an international arena as world leaders in doing environmentally sustainable projects that respect the rights of Indigenous peoples. It will be hard work — but it will be important to ensure we reduce the poverty our communities face, and treat it as a matter of urgency.

There is uncertainty, too, over B.C.’s coming new requirements for LNG development. The government cites some principles: a “fair return” for the province, accommodation of First Nations’ interests, protection of the environment, and guarantees of jobs and training for British Columbians.

The fact is, there is already a high degree of support by First Nations who were invited to the table to plan, monitor and benefit from, these projects. That is where the decision really lies, not with government, industry nor environmentalists.

The Aboriginal rights and title holders are the rightful decision makers and many have already decided. We need B.C. to build on this collaboration and help bring these projects to fruition with stable, timely and predictable decision-making processes.

Our chair, Chief Dan George, says he believes that B.C. cannot grow the economy without First Nation participation and consent.

“Now is the time to work with all of remaining proponents and supporting communities to ensure B.C. takes its place on the international stage.

“The attrition of one major project is not the end of the LNG industry. Indeed, now it is more critical than ever to enter the world stage of the LNG industry.

“We believe, once that hard trail is broken, it will be only the beginning of a longer role for B.C. in the LNG industry. In spite of the market forces, the time to enter for B.C. is now.”

We of the First Nations LNG Alliance recognize that B.C. needs a diverse economy. We believe the LNG opportunity will be a strong part of our economy over the long term.

First Nations will continue to engage with industry and government to ensure we are real partners in this province.

Karen Ogen is the CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, a collective of First Nations in support of sustainable LNG development in B.C.

The original posting by The Vancouver Sun