The Moricetown Band has signed on to receive millions of dollars in payments from two LNG deals, including one which gives Chevron Apache the last First Nations signature needed to start work on the Pacific Trails Pipeline.
The band announced today it had entered into two LNG agreements, one with the province and another with industry.
Under the first agreement, Moricetown Band will receive an immediate payment of $1.1 million as the 16th and final First Nation to enter into the First Nations Limited Partnership (FNLP) with Chevron Apache.
The FNLP provides immediate and long-term financial rewards totaling $55.4 million in exchange for support of the proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline from Summit Lake to Kitimat.
The second deal, a provincial government benefits agreement, pertains to TransCanada’s Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and 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 will receive $998,000 when the agreement comes 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.
A third deal being offered to the band, which is a participation agreement with the provincial government relating to the Coastal Gaslink project, has not yet been signed.
It is not clear if the band has decided against it.
Before today’s announcement, the chief and council had been in negotiations for more than a week since an emotional public meeting at the Moricetown multiplex last Thursday.
Chief Barry Nikal said the decision, which has been a divisive issue in the Moricetown community and the Wet’suwet’en Nation, came after a year of intense meetings and negotiations.
““The journey has been challenging for us and hard on our community,” Nikal said.
“Many of our members have been hurt through this process but we now have the resources to come back together and restore our collective.”
By entering the FNLP, he said Moricetown band members would have priority access to jobs, skills, training and contracting opportunities.
Nikal said the band had also secured a “no oil” commitment from both the B.C. government and Chevron Apache to ensure LNG pipelines could not be converted without First Nations consent.
“We are standing strong with the other 15 FNLP First Nations, including the four Wet’suwet’en bands who have already signed on,” Nikal said.
“I believe through the unity of our bands and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who have supported our decision, we can work together towards a future of prosperity and wellbeing for our people.”
Chevron spokesperson Gillian Robinson said Moricetown’s FNLP signature was a positive step for the Pacific Trails Pipeline project but the company required three key components before it could begin construction.
“These include completion of the front end engineering and design for the project, including the PTP, execution of LNG marketing agreements and a stable fiscal framework from the BC Government,” Robinson said.
She added that the company was still working on its engineering design but it had completed some early works on the western side of the proposed route.
Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, whose band signed on to the FNLP more than a year ago, assured Moricetown community members the decision was a positive step forward.
“I congratulate Moricetown for making a decision that will help to have control of the community’s future of self-determination, prosperity and strong, healthy communities,” he said.
Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconcilation John Rustad praised the Moricetown chief and council, saying the decision was courageous.
“LNG development in B.C. has the potential to bring positive, sweeping changes for many communities and First Nations in the North, environmentally, economically, and through access to quality, well-paying jobs and training opportunities,” he said.
“Partnerships like the ones we are making with Moricetown open doors for First Nations to benefit from these opportunities.”
But the Moricetown Band is anticipating community backlash to today’s announcement.
At last week’s community meeting, Wet’suwet’en Chief John Ridsdale (Namoks) questioned the decision and the commitment of the government, saying Minister of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman had gone back on a promise made at the same Moricetown hall last year to introduce legislation to prevent LNG pipelines being converted to carry oil.
Instead, he said the government introduced a regulation he believed could be easily reversed.
“If you believe in what they’re saying what else are they going to pull on you?” he said.
“The money that they put up there, that’s very small.
“That’s 35 years we’re talking about, are any of us going to be here in 35 years?”
He said it would be the next generation who would live with the outcome of any deals, and questioned if there would be any natural resources such as salmon for them to access.
THE DEALS IN BRIEF
FNLP Benefits include:
– An immediate payment of $1.148 million to Moricetown Indian Band.
– Another $7 million in the near term, including $1.2 million when PTP is approved to proceed and an additional $5.22 million when the project begins operations.
– A total of $55.4 million in payments over the life of the project.
– Priority access to contracting opportunities estimated by Moricetown at $20 million.
– Direct access to PTP training and employment opportunities through the PTP Aboriginal Skills to Employment Partnership, a not-for-profit organization devoted to training First Nations clients for work in industries in the province.
Benefits from the B.C. government include:
– $1.8 million as part of a Reconciliation Agreement to help fund social programs and to “initiate a government-to-government relationship” with Moricetown.
– An additional 37,000 cubic metres of forested land to support the success of local forest products company, Kyahwood, which is a key driver of the local economy, bringing the total Moricetown timber supply to 100,000 cubic metres.
– The province will “match” funds of up to $100,000 for job training.
– The government and the PTP will provide capacity funding to help fund communications with community members, both on reserve and off.