50 citizens crashed a TransCanada open house in Hazelton, B.C, to protest the company’s plans to build $9-billion natural gas pipelines for LNG terminals
LNG protest in Hazelton TransCanada open house – photo provided by Hannah Campbell
TransCanada officials faced a loud and uncomfortable flash mob from northern B.C. citizens at the company’s open house in the town of Hazelton Wednesday night.
A group of 50 citizens opposed to B.C.’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) push staged a dramatic protest at the public forum, first unveiling “LNG Kills” t-shirts and signs, then literally yelling at company officials.
“I want to see some numbers, I want to see some names!” bellowed Gitxsan Wing Chief Gilbert Johnson at TransCanada staff standing at attention.
Amateur video footage documents the moment. It shows Johnson repeating an allegation that TransCanada does not have the approvals of the proper hereditary chiefs in the area, many of whom are dead-set against LNG pipeline testing and construction on their traditional lands.
The province’s Oil and Gas Commission has granted legal permits to the company to do exploratory drilling. The permits are signed off by local Gitxsan, but Johnson says not all the names are “genuine” chiefs.
TransCanada’s head office in Calgary studied the video Thursday, and said:
“People have a right to protest and make their views known at the open houses, as long as it is done is a safe manner,” wrote TransCanada media spokesperson Davis Shermata in an email.
“Listening to communities, gathering input from local residents, and answering questions from the public helps us understand the unique issues and concerns that exist along the conceptual routing so the project can be designed to maximize the benefits for communities and minimize any potential negative impacts.”
Put on camera
Following Johnson’s lecture, the video camera was also put to a TransCanada official on the scene.
“Don’t put that camera in my face,” said a visibly irritated Dale O’Dwyer, a Senior Compliance Specialist with TransCanada Pipelines, after initially shoving the camera away.
“I think some people have expressed the opinions they came to express,” he said to the interviewer, moments later.
TransCanada is proposing to build two massive natural gas pipelines to feed LNG terminals planned for the B.C. northwest coast: the $4-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the $5-billion Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project.
The pipelines are part of spaghetti plate of six LNG pipelines planned by several companies, mostly for B.C’s far north, but also the southern Squamish territory near Vancouver.
Citizens and Aboriginal leaders fear the huge industrial push — to frack gas from the northeast, and pipe the fossil fuel to coastal terminals — will poison the northern watershed. The region’s Skeena River is abundant with salmon and other wild fish that commercial fisheries and tourism operators depend on.
The liquefaction of the natural gas to -160 Celsius so it can be reduced to 1/600th of its volume for transport on ocean tankers also requires massive energy and greenhouse gases.
“We’re about the air, the land and the water – when people start coming in and taking this away from us, and threatening to destroy it, what we have and what we’ve had for many, many years…”
“When people come in for money, for development, and ruin our land and water – we take offence to that. We’re going to stop you, We’re going to fight you, we’ll sue you – we’re very offended.”
O’Dwyer said this about the protesters in the video: “I think they’re wrong, because I think they’re misinformed.”
He also denied that TransCanada will “frack” as the protesters alleged, and insisted the pipeline project was merely an “infrastructure project.”
The underground explosion of gas deposits (or fracking) is required to extract the gas from the Horn River and Western Canadian basins, for shipment and sale to Asia.
Current plans by industrial proponents would vastly expand the existing frack drill sites in B.C.’s northeast in the Treaty 8 and Fort Nelson areas. But many fear, once the pipelines are built, fracking may occur anywhere along the pipeline, including the Bowser Basin, near Hazelton.
Hydraulic fracking of shale deposits is used to extract both gas and oil throughout North America.
Premier Christy Clark recently hosted a huge LNG summit in Vancouver, and sat on stage with the President of Shell Oil to boast about the “once in a generation” opportunity that LNG presents to get B.C. out of debt, and create upwards of 100,000 jobs.