A decision regarding the Coastal GasLink pipeline project was made by the Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief and Council on the evening of May 1, 2018.
Per a press release issued by the Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief and Council, Chief Alexander McKinnon and Councillors Fred Sam, N Elsa Berland, Harold Prince, Howard Sam, Wayne Sam and Ramona Joseph have signed on with the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline project is a proposed pipeline that would deliver natural gas across northern B.C. over approximately 670 kilometres from the Dawson Creek area to a liquefied natural gas export facility near Kitimat. Per their website, the proposed Coastal GasLink route “was determined by considering Aboriginal, landowner and stakeholder input, the environment, archaeological and cultural values, land use compatibility, safety, constructability and economics.”
Due to a pressing deadline, the Chief and Council were forced to make this decision before midnight on May 1. According to the press release, there were numerous factors that were at play and regarded during the decision making process, with all involved taking the decision very seriously to guarantee that the communities best interests were both considered and reflected.
Some of the factors that were discussed and taken into account by the Chief and Council include the fact that as of May 1, 2018, the Nak’azdli Whut’en were the only community impact who hadn’t signed on for the proposed pipeline, meaning that the pipeline would go through regardless of whether they had signed on with the Coastal GasLink or not.
Further, First Nation communities in which natural gas would be extracted from have all signed on with the agreement.
The Chief and Council have also noted in their press release that with the signing, Nak’azdli Whut’en would have far more control regarding the impact the project would have on the community. The new pipeline would actually run parallel with the existing pipeline in Nak’azdli Whut’en territory, ensuring there would be minimal impact during the build of the new pipeline.
The press release also states that many jobs will be made available for community members, while it is an also an opportunity to build new partnerships and strengthen existing partnerships with other communities involved in the project.
Other factors that impacted the decision listed in the press release include that there is still no proven way to safely implement hydraulic fracturing, or fracking procedures in the environment. In addition, the press release stated that Coastal GasLink with Shell has not used any fresh water in their projects for the last four years and has been continuously recycling water during that time period.
Input from the keyoh, or territory, holders who would be the most directly impacted by the proposed pipeline project was also taken into consideration during the decision making process, according to the press release.
The Chief and Council has made it clear that they will stand as a cohesive unit and support the decision made, regardless of how each individual voted.