On December 11, West Coast Environmental Law, along with the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research (NWI), co-hosted the first of a series of community dialogue sessions on LNG and cumulative impacts management. We held the opening session in Prince Rupert last week and were moved by the depth of knowledge, thoughtfulness and concern that participants brought to the session. The objective of the event was to bring together First Nations, concerned citizens, business owners, health workers, local governments and non-profit organizations to begin to talk about the overall picture of LNG development in the region.
There are eight LNG projects proposed in the Prince Rupert region today, seven in Kitimat, one in Kitsault and one in Stewart. That is a total of 17 speculative LNG projects at various stages in the application and review phases. Yet to date there isn’t much “big picture” consideration about the combined impacts of these proposals to values we all care about.
West Coast and the Northwest Institute, alongside many First Nations and local governments, have been encouraging the provincial government to undertake a big picture “regional strategic environmental assessment” that would address this problem because to date provincial regulatory decision-making, in particular the B.C. environmental assessment process, has not adequately reviewed cumulative effects.
At the dialogue session in Prince Rupert last week, we shared information with one another and began to tackle tough questions such as the following:
- What are the core values that must be protected when considering industrial development, such as pipelines across BC and LNG plants on the coast?
- What range of development scenarios are really plausible?
- How do we make wise decisions about the right pace and scale of development for our communities?
One of the recurring themes in our discussion was the deep love and commitment that people have for the north coast, and the stress and uncertainty many are feeling over what the future holds. While many diverse viewpoints were expressed at the session, one point on which there was strong agreement was the need for local communities to have a meaningful say in decision making that impacts their land and water.
We are looking forward to many more rich discussions with communities across the north in the coming months. After the dialogue sessions are complete, we will report back to communities about the themes and questions raised, and also plan to produce a report identifying gaps in the current environmental assessment processes and offer recommendations regarding how these gaps might be filled. We hope that by sharing this report with governments - including First Nations, federal, provincial, and municipal, as well as other organizations that are interested in managing the cumulative impacts of resource development - that we can help catalyze action to ensure that the pace and scale of development in the north, including LNG development, safeguards and enhances what we value.
By Hannah Askew, Staff Counsel