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Coastal GasLink receives its last two construction permits

Coastal GasLink has all major permits to start construction, but needs a final investment decision from LNG Canada on its Kitimat terminal.
Map of the route for Coastal GasLink liquified natural gas pipeline.

TransCanada announced Thursday that it has all the major permits it needs to start construction of its Coastal GasLink pipeline that would bring liquified natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat. It is now waiting for a final investment decision from Shell-led LNG Canada, delayed from late last year to late this year.

TransCanada said in a release that if LNG Canada approved the project, construction on the pipeline would begin in 2017. The route runs south of the Bulkley Valley, passing closest to the Bulkley River south of Houston as it crosses the Morice River south of Houston.

TransCanada received the last two permits of 10 pipeline and facilities permits needed from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Eight permits are related to pipeline construction, with the other two for pipeline-related facilities: a natural gas compressor station and meter station in Groundbirch, and a natural gas metering station in Kitimat.

Some permits for site-specific activities will be needed after construction starts, according to TransCanada communications specialist Shela Shapiro.

She added via email that 11 project agreements with First Nation groups have been announced, and that they are working with 21 groups on long-term benefit agreements. Shapiro added that more have been signed but not announced yet.

"The agreements we have finalized so far are a reflection of the balance that can be achieved. Aboriginal communities do not have to choose between the benefits of our project and maintaining a healthy environment and a strong traditional way of life," wrote Shapiro.

She added that of the over 350,000 hours of field work done on the project so far, over one-third comes from aboriginal participation.

"The input they provided allowed us to incorporate traditional knowledge and traditional land use information into project planning and plan a route that considered this input," added Shapiro.

The Unist'ot'en camp, led by Wet'suwet'en people and supported by environmentalists mostly from B.C. and Washington state, near the route south of Houston has plans to expand this spring.

In January 2015, the Moricetown Band signed a provincial government benefits agreement on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, which consists of a combination of employment and environmental funds and legacy payments.

Under that agreement, Moricetown will receive about $6 million in benefits, including 37,000 cubic metres of forested land, from the deal, called a Reconciliation Agreement, which will also help fund social programs.

The province will distribute the payments as project milestones are reached.

The band received $998,000 when the agreement came into effect, $2.49 million when construction begins and $2.49 million once the pipeline is operating.

The deal also includes the establishment of an environmental and cultural accord aimed at ensuring the pipeline meets the 43 Environmental Assessment Certificate conditions relating to Wet'suwet'en territory.

Moricetown also received an immediate payment of $1.1 million as the sixteenth and final First Nation to enter into the First Nations Limited Partnership (FNLP) with Chevron Apache for the similarily-routed Pacific Trails Pipeline in January 2015.

Coastal GasLink received an Environmental Assessment Certificate from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office in October 2014.

“This is a significant regulatory milestone for our project, which is a key component of TransCanada's growth plan that includes more than $13 billion in proposed natural gas pipeline projects which support the emerging liquefied natural gas industry on the British Columbia Coast,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, in a release.

“Acquiring these 10 permits demonstrates our commitment in developing this project to the highest standards of environmental protection while delivering benefits to British Columbians and Canadians for decades to come,” added Girling.

The Coastal GasLink project was originally announced on June 5, 2012.