First Nations oppose petrochemical complex

Lheidli T’enneh Nation and McLeod Lake Indian Band have thrown up a roadblock for the proposed West Coast Olefins Ltd. petrochemical complex.

In a statement issued Thursday, the two First Nations said they oppose WCOL advancing the project on the BCR industrial site and that there will be no future negotiations between the parties.

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WCOL president Ken James has said reaching a benefits agreement with LTN was among the next steps following a decision, announced this week, to bring the proposed project back to the BCR.

After first eyeing a site at the BCR, proponents then announced in May they were looking at properties near Summit Lake and Bear Lake. In June, LTN and MLIB announced a partnership to develop an industrial park near Summit Lake.

In the statement, LTN Dayi Clay Pountney and MLIB Chief Harley Chingee said that despite a significant investment in time and resources, no agreement has been reached.

"It's time to move on and work with industry partners that understand and respect aboriginal rights, title and interests. MLIB remains committed to working with LTN in the development of the Shas-Ti Dlezeh Industrial Park," Chingee said. "We share a common vision to bring new industries into the territories including the petrochemical industry to help diversify the local economy.” Pountney said talks had been going on since February 2018, when LTN was first approached.

"During the last 32 months we have worked with Westcoast Olefins in good faith and we have expended countless hours and dollars in our attempts to build a relationship that is respectful and transparent," Pountney said. "Even when the project location was moved north of Prince George, we still maintained our commitment to negotiations via our partnership with McLeod Lake Indian band.”

Reached for comment, James said WCOL will continue to progress the project through the regulatory processes and work to address those aspects related to indigenous stakeholders.

"We have to provide all the environmental information and all the impacts and the impacts on their treaty rights, their traditional rights and their title rights," he said.

He noted the current site is on fee simple land and is not in MLIB territory and that LTN has a place on the working group that is part of the submission to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office for the two plants planned for the BCR site.

Another application is before the Oil and Gas Commission for a system to provide feedstock from Enbridge’s natural gas pipeline to the BCR site.

"If they don't want to participate, that's their prerogative," James said.

James also disputed the date talks began, saying they actually started in February 2019.

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