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NEWS RELEASE · 21st November 2011
Rebecca Penty - Calgary Herald
By Rebecca Penty, Calgary HeraldNovember 19, 2011

The blockade of a crew trying to access land near Smithers, B.C. to plan the proposed Pacific Trail pipeline by a group of First Nations people last week is a glimpse of what's to come as the oil patch rushes to export energy through Canada's westernmost province to Asia.

Tasked with taking rock samples last Monday for an engineering study of the natural gas line, workers turned around their pickup trucks after an encounter with the group and their unwelcoming sign: "Road closed 2 P.T.P. Drillers."

Pacific Trail would bring northeastern British Columbia shale gas from an existing pipeline system in Summit Lake, near Prince George, to a liquefied natural gas export facility proposed for Kitimat.

Apache Corp., operator of the planned pipeline and LNG joint venture with EOG Resources Inc. and Encana Corp., acknowledged the opposition by two bands of the Wet'suwet'en Nation and said on-the-ground work for a pipeline study has wrapped up for the year.

"PTP (Pacific Trail Pipelines) continues to consult with First Nations along the pipeline right of way," spokesman Paul Wyke said in an email.

The 463-kilometre pipeline, to cost $1 billion, would carry up to one billion cubic feet per day of gas starting in 2015.

So-called native "sovereignists" aiming to guard unceded land - traditional territory not given up by treaty - vow to be present when workers return.

"We're going to remain vigilant," said Mel Bazil of the Lhe Lin Liyin group speaking for First Nations people against the pipeline.

Bazil says they'll also stop an energy corridor taking shape through Wet'suwet'en Nation traditional lands, which includes three other pipeline projects separately proposed by Enbridge Inc., Pembina Pipeline Corp. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP.

Several thousand kilometres of oil and gas lines are planned for B.C., which has widespread unsettled land claims and very few treaties. The oilpatch is encountering the difficulty of pushing projects through territory in legal limbo.

Some First Nations bands have backed developments, to reap the rewards of employment and financial compensation, but others promise to halt the race to get natural gas and oil to Canada's West Coast for export to Asia.

Bazil admits Apache may have had discussions with his community "at the boardroom table," but said his group, which lives off the land, is opposed because they were never consulted. They're also against any build of the pipeline under a river where salmon spawn. "It's glacier-fed and it's very pure."

Involved in the blockade last week were members of the Unist'ot'en and the Likhts'amisyu bands, two of five bands that make up the Wet'suwet'en Nation, the only First Nation that hasn't supported the Pacific Trail out of 16 First Nations along the line's path.

Figuring out just which groups to talk to can prove difficult for energy firms in a province with scant treaties.

"Once there's certainty that certain lands are treaty settlement lands, industry knows who they have to deal with," said chief commissioner Sophie Pierre of the B.C. Treaty Commission, which facilitates negotiations between the B.C. government, Ottawa and B.C. First Nations.

"Right now, there's uncertainty," Pierre said.

As Enbridge looks to build its 1,200-kilometre, 525,000-barrel-per-day Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Bruderheim, Alta. to Kitimat, B.C. - to the tune of $5.5 billion - it will encounter overlapping land claims in B.C., a thorny issue to tackle.

Pierre noted court decisions on First Nations land rights issues are multiplying and increasingly rule that provincial governments and industry must accommodate.

A non-treaty First Nation that successfully asserts "title" to land in court, recognized by the Canadian Constitution, gets a measure of control over how land is developed, said Josh Paterson of West Coast Environmental Law, a lawbased environmental watchdog group in Vancouver.

Paterson, who compiled a list of 130 First Nations in B.C. who have publicly declared a degree of opposition to Northern Gateway, said he'd be "very surprised" if no legal battles arising from the development end up at the Supreme Court of Canada.

"This is going to be tied up for many years," Paterson said. "There are multiple First Nations that are gearing up to challenge this thing through the courts."

Paterson predicts oil pipelines proposed in B.C., not natural gas lines, will bear the brunt of opposition, due to heightened fears over oil spills after several across North America in recent years.

The anti-oil tanker movement uniting First Nations with non-First Nations groups is already in full force to oppose marine terminals at the end of oil pipelines proposed by Enbridge and Kinder Morgan.

The protest from some First Nations groups that have targeted Northern Gateway has now spread to Kinder Morgan, proposing to twin its Trans Mountain 1,150-kilometre oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. - expanding from 300,000 barrels per day to a maximum of 700,000 barrels per day.

Kinder Morgan's terminal at the end of the pipeline, along the Burrard Inlet, is in the traditional territory of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which publicized its opposition to expansion last month.

"The risks associated with the Kinder Morgan project are too great to accept," Chief Justin George said in a statement.

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