Federal government standing behind Pacific NorthWest approval ahead of legal challenges

B.C. Premier Christy Clark and federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna at the announcement of the approval of Pacific NorthWest LNG in Richmond. Photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Environment Minister Catherine McKenna expressed confidence in the federal government’s support for B.C.’s LNG industry yesterday, on the eve of a major legal battle.

First Nations leaders and an environmental group are assembling at the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver to file a series of challenges against Ottawa’s approval of the $11.4-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project.The challenger’s arguments will be based on both Aboriginal title and environmental grounds.

McKenna told the Vancouver Sun, “We stand behind the science in this decision,” and pointed to the extra time her Ministry took to assess the risks before approving the project, which is subject to 190 conditions.

This morning’s event will involve Aboriginal leaders from a number of northern First Nations, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, and a representative of the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, among others. Opponents are trying to stop the cornerstone of Premier Christy Clark’s provincial economic strategy going into next spring’s provincial election.

Pacific NorthWest LNG, which is backed by Malaysian state-owned Petronas, would see the construction of an LNG export terminal at the mouth of the Skeena River on Lelu Island, roughly 15 kilometres south of Prince Rupert. Critics say construction and operation of the facility will cause serious damage to the eelgrass on Flora Bank near Lelu Island, which is a major habitat site for juvenile salmon as they prepare to transition from a fresh to saltwater environment.

With their conditional approval, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency said that after taking into account the measures that Petronas has promised to take to avoid harming the habitat, the risks to the salmon fishery are “low”.

Story courtesy The Vancouver Sun: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/feds-stand-behind-lng-decision-brace-for-first-nations-legal-challenge.

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