In the past few days, statements have been made regarding Coastal GasLink route selection and the rationale for the selection of the current route over an alternative proposed by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW) Hereditary Chiefs.
From 2012 to 2014, during the normal course of project development, Coastal GasLink consulted with First Nations, communities, landowners and other stakeholders regarding the routing of the pipeline. Coastal GasLink considered multiple route options within a conceptual corridor of approximately 670 km between Groundbirch near Dawson Creek, to Kitimat on the coast.
During this period, Coastal GasLink invested more than 100,000 hours of field work and study to determine the most feasible route to install our 48-inch diameter gas pipeline. This work led to the selection of the route put forward in the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) application that was submitted on January 29, 2014.
The selected route was evaluated through the environmental assessment process leading to route approval by the EAO and issuance of the Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) on October 23, 2014.
During the period prior to EAO application submission, Coastal GasLink consulted with the OW on issues relevant to the proposed pipeline project and route. This engagement was limited in scope and scale compared to other Indigenous community engagement due to what seemed an unwillingness of the OW to engage. The consultation record of this engagement was submitted to the EAO as part of our 2014 application, an application that also included mitigations to address concerns raised by the OW.
Throughout this engagement with the OW and prior to our EAO submission, Coastal GasLink is unaware of the McDonnell Lake route being raised.
The overall Indigenous consultation record for Coastal GasLink, which included 5,000 interactions with Indigenous people impacted by our pipeline, was submitted to the EAO as part of our January 2014 application, was accepted by the EAO and ultimately approved on the issuance of our EAC.
Following our EAO application in January 2014, the OW met with Coastal GasLink representatives on May 16, 2014 and expressed their preference for an alternate route called the McDonnell Lake route, that would essentially follow the existing 10-inch Pacific Northern Gas (PNG) pipeline that delivers gas to residential and commercial users in northwest British Columbia.
Despite having already submitted the EAO application, Coastal GasLink examined the McDonnell Lake route using our standard route selection criteria (including environmental, social, technical, economic aspects) to assess the route and to provide a response to the OW, which was subsequently provided to the OW in a confidential letter issued on August 21, 2014.
In the letter to the OW, Coastal GasLink outlined the reasons for rejecting the alternate route including the following key aspects:
In the August 21, 2014 letter, Coastal GasLink did offer an alternate route called the Morice River North Alternate (MRNA), approximately 55 kilometres in length, that would have moved the pipeline 3 to 5 kilometres away from the Morice River (Unist’ot’en) healing centre. Coastal GasLink also offered to arrange for an overflight for the Hereditary Chiefs to view the alternate routing.
No response to our offer of overflight was ever received, nor did we receive a response to our August 21, 2014 letter.
Construction on Coastal GasLink began in January 2019 and continues across northern British Columbia. Grading, clearing and site preparation work is well advanced across the route with pipe delivery ongoing and mainline construction commencing this summer.
Coastal GasLink continues to believe that dialogue with the Hereditary Chiefs of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and the Unist’ot’en is the best approach to ensure the concerns of the Chiefs are addressed while ensuring the benefits of Coastal GasLink are delivered to Wet’suwet’en people. We look forward to further engagement with the Hereditary Chiefs and Unist’ot’en and remain ready to meet at their convenience.
View the August 21, 2014 letter; confidential information redacted.