A $6 million benefit agreement with the Nisga'a Nation to build a gas pipeline through its territory is the first of a series of deals that will share benefits of liquefied natural gas development with B.C. First Nations, Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad says.
Rustad and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman signed the agreement Thursday with Nisga'a Nation President Mitchell Stevens to accommodate a pipeline through Nisga'a territory to an LNG export facility proposed near Prince Rupert.
The pipeline is proposed by TransCanada Corp. to supply gas from northeast gas fields to an export facility at the Port of Prince Rupert. But the Nisga'a have aspirations to go beyond one project.
The Nisga'a government has identified four sites near the mouth of the Nass River that have level land and ship access that could accommodate land-based or floating LNG terminals.
"We're not interested in a pipe that comes from the northeast and brings raw resources to the coast," Stevens said. "What we are interested in is a pipe that gives us an opportunity to provide for an economic base for Nisga'a citizens. And these are the sites that were identified, which we own in fee simple."
The Prince Rupert proposal is led by Malaysian energy company PETRONAS, which is expected to be one of the first of more than a dozen LNG proposals to make its final investment decision.
The B.C. and Nisga'a legislatures are changing legislation to allow a gas pipeline to pass through Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park, the first provincial park to be co-managed with an aboriginal community.
The B.C. government has also proposed legislation to give the Nisga'a government taxation authority over natural gas facilities in their territory.
The Nisga'a government has also made an agreement for a still-undetermined share of $10 million in annual benefits from the TransCanada pipeline.
Stevens said there was opposition within the community to the pipeline proposal, but after an extraordinary debate where all Nisga'a hereditary leaders addressed the elected legislature, the project was approved by a two-thirds majority.
"The opportunity to be an active player in the LNG industry is the kind of opportunity for which our elders struggled for over a century, so we could achieve sustainable prosperity for our people into the next century," Stevens said. "Our elders have told us, now is the time to be bold and move forward."