Lax Kw’alaams Band has demonstrated its support of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project on Lelu Island under two conditions.
In a letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, the elected Mayor John Helin wrote, “I have had further discussions within our community about the project and as a result of these discussions I would like to retract the initial letter in favour of the terms and conditions set out in this letter.”
“Lax Kw’alaams must ensure that sufficient environmental conditions and safeguards will be in place,” he said in the letter.
The letter was written on March 15, four days after the initial public comment process for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) draft report on Pacific NorthWest’s LNG project ended.
Helin appealed to McKenna’s decision on whether or not to approve the potential LNG development. He said that support will only be given if two conditions attached to the letter are legally binding and become part of the environmental assessment decision statement.
The two conditions are the proponent must report its environmental monitoring work and follow up programs to an Environmental Performance Committee, which includes the Lax Kw’alaams Band, the CEAA and other federal representatives. The second condition is that the proponent must respond to any enforcement actions that have been recommended by the Environmental Performance Committee.
“We would be pleased to negotiate such terms of reference immediately,” and have the goal to wrap up discussions on May 13. If the conditions are not met by the deadline then Lax Kw’alaams will retract their support for the project.
Not everyone is in support of the reversed decision. In response, Hereditary Chief Yahaan Donald Wesley of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe of the Lax Kw’alaams said in a press release, “Our community voted unanimously against this LNG project in May. Yet the band council mayor never held a community-wide meeting before he wrote this letter in support of this LNG project, nor did he gain the consent of the entire community.”
The federal environment minister was expected to make her decision on the project on March 22 but CEAA has delayed the decision process for another three months.
The agency requested more time to review new information submitted by the proponent on March 4 regarding changes to its construction, schedule and more details about the project. CEAA asked the proponent for more information regarding its project.
In a statement, CEAA said it needs to review and analyze this new information to be included in the final environmental report.
The extension will also offer more time for the agency to give due diligence to the more than 34,000 comments received from the public on its draft environmental report and on the LNG project proposed on Lelu Island.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change approved of the three-month extension but the press release states that the government intends to make a final decision on the project within that period.
A day before the extension was announced on March 18, McKenna approved the Woodfibre LNG project near Squamish. She was satisfied with the B.C. government’s environmental assessment of the project and announced that it is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.
“The Woodfibre LNG Project underwent a thorough, science-based environmental assessment that considered public and Indigenous input and views,” said Minister McKenna. “The process benefited from scientific and technical expertise, Indigenous traditional knowledge and constructive feedback that helped to inform my decision.”