CALGARY: Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s (Petronas) proposed C$11bil (US$8.5bil) liquefied natural gas export plant in Canada is getting a boost as an aboriginal community signals openness to the project amid speculation that the location may be changed.
The Lax Kw’alaams Band, which opposes the current venue in British Columbia, is optimistic that it will be moved, according to Mayor John Helin, whose community members endorsed talks on compensation for impacts on their traditional lands. The group is set to meet in the coming days with officials from the Pacific NorthWest LNG project and provincial and federal governments.
While the developer says the proposal hasn’t been altered, an online message circulated among Lax Kw’alaams members this month states that the terminal would be placed at one of two sites farther north than now envisioned.
Local politics also are shifting with Helin’s election in November after the band rejected C$1.15bil in compensation in May 2015, citing environmental concerns. In March, Helin offered conditional support to Pacific NorthWest LNG in a letter to regulators.
“We have to look after the environment first, but we also have to look after the benefits side of things,” Helin said last Friday in a telephone interview. “Most of the First Nations communities in Canada are living in third-world conditions and in a country as prosperous as Canada, that shouldn’t happen.”
Petronas, the Malaysian state oil company, is joined by other backers for the project including China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, Japan Petroleum Exploration Co, Indian Oil Corp. and Brunei National Petroleum Co.
About two-thirds of 812 Lax Kw’alaams Band members voting in a poll supported continued discussions about the project along British Columbia’s northwest coast, provided that the environment is protected, according to results released last Thursday.
Some environmentalists, scientists and aboriginal community members oppose plans to build the terminal on an uninhabited coastal islet and locate LNG carrier berths, a trestle and a suspension bridge in nearby waters deemed crucial for juvenile salmon.
“We’ve been saying all along that we don’t agree with the site,” Helin said. He said he plans to raise the idea of an alternative venue at the upcoming meeting and is hopeful for a change.
The online message to Lax Kw’alaams members identified two other prospective locations besides the current Lelu Island. Neither of those sites – Ridley Island or Nasoga Gulf – would be critical for salmon. – Bloomberg
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