A small group of pipeline protesters gathered in front of MLA Doug Donaldson’s office on Main Street in Smithers Jan. 31 in support of another demand to shutdown the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

Hereditary chiefs renew demand for pipeline shutdown

Coastal GasLink found non-compliant with environmental assessment certificate last year

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are again demanding the shutdown of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project after the company received a warning for being non-compliant with its environmental assessment certificate (EAC).

“Coastal GasLink has been found non-compliant in six legally-required and legally-binding conditions,” stated a press release by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. “This report by the B.C Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) compliance and enforcement officer affirms our own Wet’suwet’en investigations about Coastal GasLink’s willful and illegal disregard for our territories and cultural practices.”

Dave Karn, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, confirmed the company had been warned for non-compliance following an inspection in June and July 2018 conducted by Chris Parks, EAO director of compliance and enforcement. The report noted six plans, documents or other requirements mandated to be completed prior to the beginning of construction were incomplete when construction was already underway. These were a table of concordance with respect to kilometre posts, the grizzly bear agreement, the caribou agreement, identification of old growth replacement areas, notification of timber tenure holders and provision of monitoring opportunities for aboriginal groups.

“CGL has since addressed the six conditions and is now in compliance with the conditions and requirements of its EAC,” Karn said in a statement.

“As is regular Environmental Assessment Office Compliance and Enforcement practice, if there are any non-compliance issues, the EAO will determine the appropriate enforcement response which could include: warnings, orders to cease work or remedy, or a range of other potential sanctions set out in the Environmental Assessment Act.”

Coastal GasLink said in a statement they are working within the regulatory framework.

“We are committed to undertaking all work in a safe and respectful manner that minimizes any impacts to traditional activities and meets regulatory requirements,” the company said. “We will continue to cooperate with the regulators and address any identified deficiencies. We remain open to dialogue with all stakeholders and First Nations.”

But that is not good enough for Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) speaking on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

“They said they would issue a warning and it would be under the EAO, the way that their policies are now,” he said. “Well, this year they’re supposed to be strengthening them, right now they’re just rubber-stamping them, and all they do is send them a warning when these are more than just infractions. They’re operating without proper permitting, which is unlawful.”

Furthermore, he said, the environmental assessment process itself is broken and must be fixed before work proceeds.

“We’ve said for years there needed to be more enforcement than what there is,” Na’Moks said. “You can’t just rubber stamp things, you can’t just look at a false report and take it for truth and not actually go out there and monitor. We need them at this point to make sure the rules and regulations and policies they have in place are actually enforced.”

Na’Moks would not say whether the hereditary chiefs’ end goal is to shut the project down permanently.

“We can’t even discuss that, don’t they have to fix what they’re doing first before we answer the next question?” he said.

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