TransCanada held their open houses on Wednesday night in Hazelton and Smithers on Thursday night regarding the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project.
Experts were present to answer any questions that the public had. Questions ranged from the depths of pipelines to options for alternate routes and potential environmental impacts.
“Everyone has local issues, like ‘what about this in my area,’ or ‘what about jobs,’ we’re getting a mixed series of questions depending on where you are on the line,” spokesperson Garry Bridgewater said.
Towns that hosted open houses had a variety of questions that reflected concerns of local implications of the pipeline. In Port Edward people were curious about jobs while people in Terrace were concerned about the route going through the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park, Bridgewater explained.
The project is a $5 billion natural gas pipeline that has been proposed by TransCanada. The pipeline is a 900-kilometre natural gas pipeline that if approved will deliver natural gas from the district of Hudson’s Hope to Lelu Island in the Port Edward district.
The open house in Smithers was protest-free as opposed to the one that took place in Hazelton the night before.
Members of the Unist’ot’en Camp made an appearance clad in white T-shirts that together formed the words “LNG KILLS.”
The protesters released balloons holding a banner into the room and performed a bit that involved protesters laying on the floor pretending to be dead.
Bridgewater said that TransCanada doesn’t mind protesters.
“We have no problem with opposing views, as long as they conduct themselves in a respectful manner,” he said.
“They said their piece, they had their banners and then they left and had a BBQ across the street and we’re perfectly fine with that,” he said.
The company prides itself on being as open and transparent as possible with the public so they also welcome opposing views, Bridgewater explained.
Bridgewater said that many of these opposing views can spring from misinformation about the project.
“Open houses are the perfect opportunity to clear up some of those misconceptions.”
One of the biggest misconceptions that Bridgewater and his team has heard was that TransCanada fracks. They have seen signs in Hazelton that read “Don’t frack our salmon,” but he hopes to clear the air.
“We don’t frack. We’re not into hydraulic fracturing at all, we just don’t do that kind of drilling,” Bridgewater said.
Other misconceptions that have been discussed was the lack of aboriginal communication, but Brigewater explained that TransCanada has a team dedicated to speaking solely with aboriginal communities and leaders.
“We engage with speaking opportunities whenever we can, we’re in the communities, there is a lot of work being done by everyone to make sure that people are completely up to speed with the kinds of work that we’re doing,” he said.
Graeme Pole, an organizer for the grassroots protest group No More Pipelines, said they were just there to present some outside information.
He said they received some positive feedback from guests and he noted that around 60 people showed up to hear their side and see some of the research they found.
“You can find a lot of information in the documents that the industries put out,” Pole said.
Pole said that TransCanada saying they aren’t involved in fracking is their way of dodging the issue.
Although the company isn’t involved in fracking, Pole said they are potentially opening up the doors for other companies to utilize their pipelines to access more reserves by fracking and hooking up to the already constructed pipeline.
“They are pigeonholing themselves out of the big picture. By saying ‘we’re the taxi,’ they’re being corporately and socially irresponsible and they are talking down to people by saying that,” he said.
Pole said the most important thing to remember is to be informed and make your own decisions.
“Whenever the government is telling you something is good, you need to step back and say hmmm. People need to educate themselves, there is a lot of information out there now and I encourage people to start believing their own intelligence, instead of just listening to the government, or industry, or short term dollars,” he said.
Or those who are curious can attend an open house that companies are hosting and get some questions answered. Combine that information with self-researched findings and form an educated opinion.