The fight over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline seems destined to play out in the courtroom, but the liquefied natural gas development could proceed without a legal battle according to one First Nations leader.
Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt said so far the proponents for liquefied natural gas (LNG) have appeared more willing to talk to his group and other aboriginal organizations which could set things up for a smoother ride through the regulatory process.
"I think the LNG companies have done a way better job of setting the table for a conversation with First Nations," Sterritt said during a visit to Prince George to take part in the LNG summit hosted by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.
"They've provided plenty of resources, they're here, they're talking and all the indications I've had is they're trying to do this with the best available technology."
Sterritt said there are still problems his group sees with the plan to increase natural gas extraction in the northeast of the province, ship it by pipelines to the north coast, cool it into a liquid form and ship it to Asian markets.
For instance, he's concerned about the impact on air quality with a handful of liquefaction plants planned for Prince Rupert and Kitimat.
"The reality is we have a lot of [carbon dioxide] emitted and fracking in the northeast, there's going to be a lot of [carbon dioxide] and sulfur oxide and nitrous oxide that is going to be put in the air all along the route and in particular Kitimat and Prince Rupert, the air quality in those areas is going to be challenged seriously and I haven't heard anything about that," Sterritt said.
Like other First Nations leaders at the summit, Sterritt said he didn't want to rush discussions about the possible environmental impacts of the new industry, which the province hopes will create jobs and bring billions of dollars into the treasury through royalties and a larger economic base in B.C.
Rather than hearing speeches from politicians boasting about the industry's potential, Sterritt wants to delve into the nuts and bolts of the technology to ensure it's appropriate. Although things haven't reached that stage yet, he remains confident common ground can be found.
"If they live up to that commitment, if can indeed stand beside the Premier and say this is the cleanest LNG in the world, then I think we've got a deal in British Columbia," Sterritt said.