A slide shows the eight sections of the pipeline project in northern British Columbia, with sections four to seven being in the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, during a Coastal GasLink presentation in Burns Lake on March 21. (Blair McBride photo)

RDBN frustrated with Coastal GasLink Cooperation

Directors say the company has been inconsistent in sharing its pipeline plans

TransCanada has been not cooperative with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) in its planning of various aspects of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project, RDBN directors say.

Construction of the pipeline is scheduled to start next year and this year CGL efforts are focussed on getting access to areas where the building will happen.

At its July 18 meeting, several directors expressed frustration over the company’s inconsistent engagement with the RDBN.

“I’m quite annoyed by the lack of cooperation from Coastal GasLink,” said Michael Riis-Christianson, Electoral Area B Director.

“I can’t help but think back to when this company was seeking social license to proceed with this project, it cooperated with local government quite strongly. But since it got its permits it seems like there’s been one disappointing delay after another.”

The RDBN is specifically concerned that TransCanada hasn’t “developed emergency response plans in consultation with the RDBN that address fire protection and emergency response based on an understanding of the services available in the region,” according to an RDBN memorandum.

The regional district added that TransCanada confirmed it is developing emergency response plans with its contractors but couldn’t commit to letting the RDBN review or see the draft plans once they’re complete.

In response, CGL spokesperson Natasha Westover said in an email to Black Press that the company “has been fully engaged with the RDBN on issues of importance to residents including emergency response and fire protection. CGL and our contractors have fire prevention and response plans in place and we will continue to work directly with the District to provide that information.”

Another concern of the district is that the CGL project will exacerbate the spread of invasive plants from the pipeline onto nearby lands.

“The cost of combating these inevitable invasive plant outbreaks from the pipeline will be at the expense of the residents of the RDBN if TransCanada does not contribute to the North West Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC),” said the RDBN.

But according to Westover, TransCanada is working with the NWIPC and has prepared an Invasive Plant Management Plan.

“[It was] developed with extensive consultation from government agencies, Aboriginal groups, and stakeholders and approved as part of the Project’s Environmental Management Plan by the Environmental Assessment Office. The primary objective is to identify, prevent, control and monitor noxious and invasive plants (weeds). Invasive plant management will continue throughout the operations phase of the project.”

A third issue for the RDBN is that “industry and the Oil and Gas Commission will not have an adequate plan in place to accept, evaluate and respond to public complaints associated with pipeline construction.”

Westover said in reply that the company welcomes questions or concerns from the public at any time and “takes responsibility for answering questions related to our project. The project email address and public phone number are available at all times, along with Public Affairs, Indigenous Relations, and Land staff who regularly engage with landowners, stakeholders and Aboriginal groups.”

To better engage with the public, CGL has been opening temporary offices in communities along the pipeline route, Westover said, although it wasn’t clear when the Burns Lake office would open.

The portion of the pipeline passing through Burns Lake will be constructed during the 2020-2021 winter. The 7-Mile Road camp – just north of Tchesinkut Lake – for pipeline workers will be built at the end of this year.

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