Eagle Spirit pipeline proposal faces First Nations opposition
Proposed pipeline would carry refined oil from Alberta to B.C. North Coast
A First Nations-led proposal to build an oil pipeline from Alberta to B.C.'s North Coast will still face stiff opposition from some communities, including one situated at the location of the proposed marine terminal.
Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings and the Vancouver-based Aquilini Group announced yesterday their project has won support from many First Nations, including some strongly opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The project is billed as an alternative to the Northern Gateway pipeline. It would carry light crude oil that has already been refined in Alberta, instead of bitumen, and would ship out of Grassy Point instead of Kitimat.
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Eagle Spirit President Calvin Helin says they have signed non-disclosure agreements with many First Nations communities along the proposed route.
Helin says their "respectful, patient approach has resulted in a B.C. First Nation, the Nee Tahi Buhn near Burns Lake, revoking their support of the Northern Gateway Project" and endorsing this alternative proposal.
"We have heard their concerns about protecting the environment," says Helin.
Eagle Spirit has not filed their proposal with the National Energy Board, and Helin says they'll only do that after all First Nations' concerns are addressed.
But some First Nations say they will always be opposed to the project, including the Lax Kwa'laams, whose territory includes Grassy Point where the pipeline would end on the North Coast.
Murray Smith, an elder with the Lax Kwa'laams says the proponents of Eagle Spirit met with his community earlier this year, and received strong opposition to the proposal.
"I remember one of the hereditary chiefs getting up and asking the question, 'What part of 'no' don't you boys understand?' We don't want the oil to come through our territory at all," says Smith.
Smith says the band remains opposed to all oil pipelines in their territory.
"Nothing will change our mind, because the chances of losing our sea resources is very, very strong. We've got clam beds, we've got salmon of all sorts passing through the territory. And they don't want to risk that at any cost."
It's not just First Nations groups that hold that view, but the general public in B.C., according to Nikki Skuce with Forest Ethics.
"It's not really about who owns it. It's about the oil, and I think the opposition is pretty clear."
Over the weekend the residents of Kitimat voted 60 per cent opposed to the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal.
With files from Marissa Harvey