British Columbia

First Nation demands Enbridge remove pipeline formerly damaged by explosion that caused gas shortage in B.C.

The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation is taking Enbridge to court over a natural gas pipeline explosion near Prince George almost five months ago.

Enbridge responds to Lheidli T’enneh lawsuit saying not in public interest to stop operating pipeline

An Enbridge natural gas pipeline exploded and caught fire northeast of Prince George on Oct. 9, 2018. The chief of the locla Lheidli T’enneh First Nation said many of his members are still experiencing nightmares over it. (Jeff Miller/Twitter)

The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation is taking Enbridge to court over a natural gas pipeline explosion near Prince George, B.C. almost five months ago.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Prince George asks for a permanent injunction preventing Enbridge from operating the pipeline in the First Nation's territory and reserves and to immediately dismantle and remove the pipeline.

The Oct. 9 explosion forced the temporary evacuation of roughly 100 residents and disrupted the flow of gas to the Lower Mainland for several months.

Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominic Frederick says Enbridge did not have an effective emergency response plan for vulnerable members, and there has been almost no communication between the First Nation and Enbridge since the explosion.

"Our lives should not come as afterthoughts," said Frederick at a news conference in Prince George.

Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dominic Frederick at a news conference in Prince George Wednesday. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Frederick said the massive fireball released in the explosion rattled windows and covered homes in ash.

"Many of our members are still experiencing nightmares ...  Enbridge doesn't seem to care," he said.

No one was injured in the explosion, and criminal activity was not suspected, but the cause of the blast is still a mystery.

Shortly after the rupture, British Columbians were asked to avoid any "non-essential" use of natural gas, as Enbridge made repairs to its system and gas flow was reduced to approximately 40 per cent of its normal capacity.

By mid-December, Fortis said the gas supply was back to normal levels, although the pipeline wasn't back to full capacity.

Enbridge responds

Enbridge responded to the suit saying it isn't in the public interest to stop operating the pipeline.

"The gas transported by this system is used to heat homes, hospitals, businesses and schools," it said.

"It is also used as a fuel for electric power generation and is a staple in a number of industrial and manufacturing processes that produce products that improve our lives."

In an emailed statement, the company said Enbridge was present at community meetings in the immediate aftermath of the incident and provided numerous community updates.

The statement said CEO Al Monaco has "established an executive team to manage negotiations" and that the company is "committed to fostering a strengthened relationship with Indigenous communities."

"The team continues to actively reach out to the First Nation regarding the negotiating process and restoring its relationship with the community," the statement read in part.

The statement said that Enbridge is co-operating with the Transportation Safety Board, and that the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation has been involved in the post-incident review process.  

Malcolm Macpherson, the lawyer representing Lheidli T'enneh in the lawsuit. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Lheidli T'enneh seeking financial compensation

The lawyer representing Lheidli T'enneh in the lawsuit is seeking financial compensation for damages, nuisance and trespass and a declaration that the Lheidli T'enneh was never consulted to begin with on the construction, operation or repair of the pipeline in question.

"And I would add as well that saying sorry would be a very good place to start," said lawyer Malcolm Macpherson. 

With files from Andrew Kurjata and Audrey McKinnon

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