The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has recently sent a letter to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission expressing several concerns over TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink Pipeline project.
Among the concerns are log and wood fibre utilization. The RDBN is requesting that TransCanada be required to ensure that all wood fibre harvested for pipeline construction is utilized.
“The long-term loss of forested lands associated with pipeline construction represents a negative impact to the long-term sustainability of the region’s forest products industries,” states the letter signed by Bill Miller, RDBN Chair. “The impact of this loss should be mitigated through the full use of wood fibre harvested along the pipeline route.”
An additional issue related to the use of wood fibre is the potential facilitation of the spread of the spruce beetle, according to Miller.
“Our understanding is that the spruce beetle takes advantage of fallen logs and wood debris in their reproduction process; therefore, an increase in the availability of such materials facilitates spruce beetle population growth,” he said.
The spruce beetle is a forest pest that is native to spruce forests and attacks the inner bark of these trees. The infestation is a current concern in some parts of B.C.
According to Miller, the RDBN is not objecting to LNG pipeline development in the region.
“The potential opportunity associated with LNG development is recognized; however, it is our responsibility to work with the province and industry in an attempt to maximize the potential benefits to our residents, and minimize the negative impacts and potential risks associated with the construction and operation of the pipeline,” he said.
The RDBN remains concerned that there are no specific commitments regarding the use of local employment in the pipeline construction process, and there are no specific commitments regarding the provision of apprenticeship positions for local employees.
The RDBN also raised concerns over invasive plant control, recommending that TransCanada provide annual funding to the Northwest Invasive Plant Council (NWIPC) as do numerous agencies with right of ways that facilitate the spread of invasive plants.
“The Coastal GasLink pipeline will facilitate the long-term spread of invasive plants, and these invasive plants will spread from the pipeline onto adjacent lands,” said Miller. “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 NWIPC.”
Furthermore, the RDBN is concerned that the LNG industry and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission will not have an adequate plan in place to accept, evaluate, and respond to public complaints associated with pipeline construction.
Coastal GasLink says the company will continue to work closely with all local communities along the project.
“We value our relationships with these communities and appreciate the feedback we have already received,” said Jacquelynn Benson, a spokesperson for Coastal GasLink. “We will continue our ongoing engagement efforts and discussions to answer any questions and address any concerns they may have as we move forward with this important project.”
Moving the pipeline
TransCanada’s proposed amendment involves relocation of a 42 km section of the pipeline southeast of Houston and north of Colleymount Road to a location approximately four kilometres to the south.
According to Coastal GasLink spokesperson Jacquelynn Benson, the proposed alternate route is a potential solution to the feedback received from Aboriginal groups in the area.
In late 2014, Coastal GasLink initiated a program to provide local Indigenous groups with the opportunity to participate in field study activities, information sharing and inter-generational transfer of traditional and cultural knowledge along sections of the pipeline corridor.
“After extensive consultation with approximately 80 Aboriginal people from various groups, Coastal GasLink initiated additional studies and engineering work to create an alternate option that would help minimize effects on traditional and cultural land,” explained Benson.
“We are very proud of the work being done in collaboration with local communities and Aboriginal groups on this important project,” she added.
The pipeline proponent anticipates filing an amendment for the alternate route with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) by mid-November. The process is expected to take between four to six months.
LNG Canada, which Coastal GasLink would transport natural gas to, is expected to make a final investment decision in 2018.