Vancouver Island First Nation approves LNG plan

VANCOUVER — A First Nation on Vancouver Island has approved a proposed liquefied natural gas export facility on its traditional territories.

Leaders of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation and the CEO of Vancouver-based Steelhead LNG held a joint news conference in Vancouver on Monday to announce what Chief Robert Dennis said was the First Nation’s “official entry into the international business world.”

Members of the small First Nation voted Saturday to approve development of the LNG facility at Sarita Bay, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“I feel it is going to be a very inviting opportunity for international investors to come to Canada and say, ‘Hey, there is certainty there and we would be willing to work there,’” Dennis said.

Steelhead CEO Nigel Kuzemko said the company has National Energy Board licences to export 24 million tonnes of LNG through the Sarita Bay facility every year, but he said discussions are ongoing about how they’ll get the natural gas from northeastern B.C. and Alberta to Vancouver Island.

Kuzemko said existing pipelines are favoured, and Steelhead has been in talks over the possibility of bringing gas across the Salish Sea from Washington state or piping it across southern B.C.

The company’s plans could even include building a new pipeline linking Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland, but it is too early to discuss the costs of getting the LNG to market, he said.

“The project size, the scope, the scale and the amount we have to spend to do that will obviously evolve over time. We just don’t have a number to give you,” Kuzemko said.

The company planned to make a final investment decision on Sarita Bay by 2019 or 2020, with first production targeted for 2024, he said.

Steelhead and the First Nation did not offer specifics about job creation but Huu-ay-aht leaders said the First Nation will benefit significantly, as would other workers.

“We are going to make sure that we extend as much of our energy to make sure Huu-ay-aht people are working and also to contribute to the employment sector of other Canadians and other B.C. people who are also working for us,” Dennis said.

Neither Steelhead nor the First Nation would discuss the financial aspects of the agreement.

However, Huu-ay-aht leaders said the First Nation would have an equity stake in the project that they would co-manage to ensure environmental oversight and also have a financial component commensurate with the size of the development.

John Jack, executive councillor with the Huu-ay-aht, said it’s time the First Nation took its place within Canada and British Columbia.

“This is an example of a First Nation working with business and working with the people of B.C. and Canada in order to create value that fits both of our interests.”

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