Blog: First Nations’ Engagement on LNG

We’ve looked in our blogs at employment issues and government relations, as discussed in the Joint Engagement Report that we prepared earlier this year with the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources.

Now for a look at regulatory and engagement processes around LNG projects, and how First Nations are involved and affected:

For one thing, our five regional engagement sessions with the ministry heard that there are major concerns about an inconsistent approach from industry in regards to engaging with First Nations affected by their projects.

As well, some First Nations told the sessions that not enough attention is paid to the full lifecycle of projects, that some have had negative experiences with the reclamation phase of projects, and that BC should be doing more to address the cumulative effects of oil and gas development in northeast BC, where impacts are experienced across the landscape.

These and other concerns led to a suggestion that BC should enhance guidance on engagement processes — with minimum standards for industry to meet when dealing with First Nations.

And they led to the thought that that BC should support development by First Nation communities’ of guidance for industry engagement with their community.

Also proposed:

  • BC should support Indigenous collaboration and capacity funding on environmental assessment and permitting work related to new LNG projects and potential amendments to existing pipeline or facility projects.
  • BC should consider splitting regulatory review processes to deal with environmental issues and rights and title issues separately. (The sessions were told that dealing with rights and title and the environmental impacts in the same process can politicize the environmental-review process.)
  • BC should also consider jointly designed environmental review processes with First Nations. (The Squamish Nation’s approach to engagement was cited at regional sessions as a positive example of where consent was reached on the best way to minimize impacts.)
  • BC should ensure ongoing roles and responsibilities of the parties are identified for the entire life cycle of the project and have better mechanisms to manage ongoing issues.
  • BC should ensure old gas wells (e.g. suspended or abandoned wells) are cleaned up and restored before new ones are authorized, to address environmental impacts from legacy infrastructure.

The question of reviewing the social impacts of LNG development was also raised, and these recommendations emerged:

  • BC should develop opportunities to review and address social impacts collaboratively with local communities and government.
  • BC should support First Nations such as Haisla who have experienced social impacts from recent industrial development (e.g. Rio Tinto Alcan modernization) to share planning experiences with government and other First Nations potentially affected by LNG projects.

There’s much more in the full report. And many of the ideas go beyond LNG, and reflect First Nation views of requirements for the development of successful natural-resource development projects.

The report notes: “If LNG projects are done in a way that respects First Nation interests, they will be the most safe, environmentally rigorous, and human-rights-compliant projects in the world. When these key interests are addressed early in natural resource development projects, there is greater likelihood for success.”

The First Nations LNG Alliance looks forward to working with the BC government on further exploration of the future of LNG and ongoing engagement with First Nations.