By Cam Fortems
Kamloops This Week
Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson has promised jobs, training, joint venture partnerships and long-lasting benefits to First Nations along the route of the proposed twinning of the company’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
However, a veteran native leader warned the same group of First Nations gathered at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre on Tuesday that damage from the oil and gas industry is forever, while its payout is short-lived.
Several hundred First Nations people, including leaders, gathered in Kamloops for a two-day pipeline summit organized by the Lower Nicola Indian Band. Many of them were in the city to better understand the benefits that may come to their people.
“Rights and title has never been questioned,” said Anderson, whose company wants to twin the petroleum pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. “We accepted this as necessary and an obligation we have to fulfill.”
Kinder Morgan eyes construction in 2017
Kinder Morgan hopes to receive regulatory approval next year for its bid to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline, with construction of the line beginning in 2017.
But, its president acknowledged on Tuesday that he doesn’t know whether the incoming federal Liberal government will have an impact on the proposed project, which would include twinning the line through Kamloops.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who will be sworn in as prime minister on Nov. 4, has condemned Enbridge’s proposed Gateway North pipeline proposal (which would run from Alberta to Kitimat) and supported the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (which would run from Alberta and south into the U.S.), but has made no statements against Trans Mountain.
The Liberal party did, however, campaign on strengthening environmental review under the National Energy Board.
Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson told reporters the company will wait until the new Trudeau government is sworn in and ministers appointed so it can better understand its intentions. The federal government has the final say on any pipeline decision.
Mike Lebourdais, chief of the Whispering Pines Indian Band — the first to sign a deal with Kinder Morgan — said he doesn’t expect any significant changes to the proposed twinning from the Liberals.
“The Liberals weren’t really opposed,” he said. “They want transparency, responsibility and an extremely safe pipeline. That’s exactly what we want.”
Anderson said beyond contracts, jobs and training during construction will be a long-lasting relationship with First Nations — the “eyes and ears” of the company to report problems, secure the line and provide maintenance.
If the pipeline receives regulatory approvals, it promises rich benefits beyond construction.
Whispering Pines Indian Band is the first along the route to reach a deal with Kinder Morgan Chief Mike Lebourdais confirmed that agreement is worth between $10 and $20 million over 20 years, with benefits going to elder pensions and youth programs for the small band, located north of Kamloops between Vinsulla and McLure.
But, Stuart Phillip, grand chief of B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, told the assembled band members, leaders, business consultants and public-relations staff that oil and gas development “is probably the most important issue we’ll deal with in our lifetimes.
“We all know the dire consequences of global warming and climate change,” he said. “We know the oil and gas industry is a major player.”
As for benefits from Kinder Morgan, Phillip said they will come and go with construction of the line. He cited the example of one of his sons and his nephews, who worked on the Southern Crossing Pipeline in the Okanagan between Canada and the United States.
“For a few weeks, the sun was shining in the background. They were making incredible money,” Phillip said. “They invested in jalopies and dirt bikes.”
But, Phillip said, the work came and went.
“It’s not like my son gets up every morning, packs his black lunch kit and goes to work on the pipeline,” he said. “Once it’s done, it’s over.”
Lebourdais told KTW all but one First Nation along the proposed twinning is negotiation with the corporation for a potential agreement. His band started with a basic question: “What if we turned the whole pipeline into an Indian reserve and taxed the hell out of it?”
The resulting agreement with his band provides those kind of benefits, he said.