The proposed Pacific Northwest LNG project, which a consortium led by Malaysia's Petronas plans to build on an island off the northwest coast of British Columbia, ran into another roadblock this week, with the filing of a lawsuit by First Nations groups who argue they were not properly consulted.
A group of hereditary chiefs with the Gitxsan First Nation, representing several sub-groups of indigenous people who live in the interior of the province, are seeking to overturn the federal government's approval of the project.
The suit brings to four the number of legal actions filed by Native American groups to try to halt the proposed $8.32 billion (C$11 billion) LNG export project.
Yvonne Lattie, Gitxsan hereditary chief of the Wilp Gwininitw group, and Charlie Wright Gitxsan, hereditary chief of Wiip Luutkudziwuus, announced the request for judicial review in Vancouver Tuesday.
The suit calls for the Canadian government to review an environmental approval granted to the project in September.
Attempts to reach a Pacific Northwest spokesman for comment on the suit were unsuccessful.
John Ridsdale, chief of Tsayu clan of Wet'suwet'en, whose group was not a party to the litigation, nevertheless said he supports the legal challenge on behalf of all First Nations peoples in the region.
He said the LNG terminal, which the developers want to build on Lelu Island at the mouth of the Skeena River, could threaten a salmon spawning habitat in the river estuary.
The legal action filed Tuesday was "filed on behalf of the Gitxsan, our neighbors to the west, who are filing based on the lack of consultation, the protection of the salmon, and the height of the Skeena River," Ridsdale said in an interview Wednesday.
While several coastal First Nations groups have already expressed opposition to the project, the current latest represents the first by inland groups of indigenous people, who are concerned the environmental impacts of the proposed terminal would extend to their region.
"We are inland but we are a nation, we have 22,000 square kilometers of territory," Ridsdale said. "Our water flows down to the Skeena, which would be affected by this proposed plant."
In addition to concerns regarding the impact of the proposed facility on the salmon population, the Gitxsan First Nation suit also charges the government with a lack of consultation among all of the people who could be impacted by project.
"When they do consultation here in British Columbia, west of the Rockies we have less consultation than anywhere else in British Columbia," Ridsdale said.
He said the government officials had been conducting consultations on the proposed project only among elected chiefs whose jurisdictions comprise limited areas.
"They have to talk to the proper rights and title holders, which is us, the hereditary chiefs of our nations," he said. "The hereditary chiefs -- we look after the entire territory."
In the case of the Gitxsan First Nation, "the Gitxsan are filing because the proposed pipeline crosses their territory and they haven't gotten the permission from the hereditary chiefs to do that," Ridsdale said.
The proposed LNG project would entail the construction of two gas liquefaction trains, each with a capacity of 6 million mt/year at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, with an option to build a third 6 million mt/year train later.
At the initial stage, the project would utilize 2 Bcf/d of gas.
The Pacific Northwest consortium is looking into whether to redesign the project to address the concerns of First Nations groups and environmentalists who oppose the project.
In December, a spokesman for the consortium said the project developers would be "conducting a total project review" over the next several months.
"The project is continuing to work with area First Nations, stakeholders and regulators, to manage any potential impacts through mitigation measures and design optimization," the spokesman said in an email.http://www.platts.com/latest-news/natural-gas/houston/british-columbia-first-nations-groups-file-suit-21573822