TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline project recently sent a letter to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) responding to some of the concerns raised by the RDBN with regard to pipeline construction.
The RDBN had sent a letter to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission last November expressing several concerns about the proposed pipeline, which would travel through an area south of the Bulkley Valley on its way to Kitimat. These concerns include emergency response, commitments to local hiring, wood fibre utilization, spread of invasive plants, and the way the company handles public complaints.
No specific emergency response plan yet
According to Kiel Giddens, Coastal GasLink’s regional manager of public affairs, Coastal GasLink cannot provide specific emergency response plans until contracts are in place with their prime contractors. He said Coastal GasLink will be utilizing “experienced and qualified” prime contractors, who will be responsible to develop comprehensive emergency response plans.
“These plans must include various emergency situations and scenarios and identify procedures and resources required to isolate, control and manage emergencies,” he explained. “The prime contractors will typically be self-sufficient for all but major emergencies.”
“Coastal GasLink and our prime contractors will work with local organizations as soon as possible when they have the appropriate information to do so,” he added.
In addition, TransCanada has an emergency management program that includes corporate, operations and project related areas.
“The program is routinely reviewed and revised as necessary and is tested through drills on an ongoing basis,” said Giddens. “When activated, this program assembles subject matter experts in various disciplines to ensure the appropriate resources are engaged to mitigate the emergency as effectively and expeditiously as possible.”
Local hiring commitments
With regard to local contracting, Giddens says in the letter to the RDBN that Coastal Gaslink goes “beyond the industry standard.” However, he does not commit to a number or percentage for local hiring.
“We are currently working closely with our leading contractors on their labour strategies. These strategies include advanced work and planning with the unions to ensure that Aboriginal and local people in northern B.C. have preferential hiring,” he said.
“The project continues to connect with businesses and individuals at chamber events, business forums, and job fairs across northern B.C.,” he continued. “Throughout these efforts, we have been collecting local vendor information through our vendor databases, and will be sharing this information with our contractors.”
“Coastal GasLink plans to notify communities when our prime contractors are selected, and we will tour the region with our contractors to promote both local contracting and local employment through networking opportunities,” he added.
Wood fiber utilization
Giddens said the project’s environmental assessment certificate conditions Coastal GasLink to develop a “timber salvage strategy,” which is about minimizing the volume of waste timber.
The strategy also describes mitigation to avoid and minimize the spread of forest pests such as the spruce beetle during timber management and hauling.
“Infested timber will not be transported during critical times to avoid distributing forest pests into new geographic areas,” he said. “Pest infestation monitoring and stand evaluation of risk will be ongoing to ensure Coastal GasLink activities have not created conditions for forest pest spread.”
Spread of invasive plants
According to Giddens, the project’s environmental assessment certificate also conditions the development of an “invasive plants management plan,” which was developed with consultation from government agencies, Indigenous groups and stakeholders.
“The primary objective is to prevent the introduction of noxious and invasive plants to project sites, but also to manage weeds discovered during monitoring activities throughout construction, reclamation and operations,” he said. “The plan also provides details on alternative methods of weed control, avoiding the use of herbicides and pesticides.”
He adds that Coastal GasLink and the Northwest Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC) have discussed potential opportunities for partnership.
“Coastal GasLink plans further discussions with NWIPC on sharing database information and potential opportunities during the construction phase,” he said.
Handling public complaints
According to Giddens, Coastal GasLink takes all public concerns seriously, and takes responsibility for answering questions related to their project.
“Coastal GasLink takes accountability for responding, documenting and tracking issues as part of the regulatory reporting process,” he said. “The project email address and public phone number are available to contact us at any time, along with public affairs, Indigenous relations, and land staff who regularly engage with landowners, stakeholders and Aboriginal groups.”
Coastal GasLink plans to hire additional public affairs staff if a final investment decision is reached.