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First Nations reap multibillion-dollar LNG agreements

LNG Canada’s $40 billion project has been lauded as a major win for Indigenous communities in British Columbia.

“History is unfolding before our eyes,” said Haisla Nation chief councillor Crystal Smith of the single largest private-sector infrastructure project in Canadian history.

“We are having a share, and we are having our say,” Smith said.

The project’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) liquefaction and export facility in Kitimat will be built in Haisla territory, and the First Nation has been an early partner and proponent of the project. The Ledcor-Haisla Limited Partnership, for example, was selected by LNG Canada two years ago for site preparation activities.

Getting gas to the north coast facility is the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will be built, operated and maintained by TransCanada Corp.

In September, the company announced it had signed project agreements with all elected Indigenous communities along the pipeline’s path – 20 in all. LNG Canada’s positive final investment decision means more than $1 billion in work and employment contracts also get the green light, with most of those funds going to Indigenous communities and businesses.

In total, TransCanada has awarded $620 million in contract work – for clearing, medical, security and camp management – to northern British Columbian Indigenous businesses. An additional $400 million in contract and employment opportunities is expected to go to Indigenous and local communities during the construction of the pipeline.

“It’s very exciting for the First Nations that have signed benefit agreements,” said Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance.

The shaered benefits don’t end there. The provincial government has signed multibillion-dollar revenue  agreements with First Nations along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route.

Fourteen natural gas pipeline benefits agreements (PBAs), signed by the former BC Liberal government between 2014 and 2015, promise each First Nation $10 million in annual revenue once the pipeline is in service, and for as long as the line continues to deliver natural gas to Kitimat.

With a 40-year export licence, the PBAs could generate up to $5.6 billion in total benefits to  B.C. First Nations. The province has additionally committed more than $34 million in payments to First Nations between the project’s development and its completion.

The $30 million Indigenous Skills Training Development Fund  will deliver training programs primarily in northern B.C. for work on the gas pipelines.

From Ogen-Toews’ perspective, a project like this has been a long time coming.

“This is a historical moment not only for Indigenous people but for B.C. and Canada,” she said. “It’s about time, I think, that these projects are benefiting everyone. It’s a win-win all the way around.”