Mackenzie Valley pipeline: 37 years of negotiation… proposed BC pipelines?

inspired by good 'ol Far Side

It would seem that things may heat up on the BC “pipeline” front… or already have.

This article out of the Calgary Herald the other day (right in the heartland of oil and gas country…)

Pipelines face fight from B.C. First Nations

The blockade of a crew trying to access land near Smithers, B.C. to plan the proposed Pacific Trail pipeline by a group of First Nations people last week is a glimpse of what’s to come as the oilpatch rushes to export energy through Canada’s westernmost province to Asia.

Several thousand kilometres of oil and gas lines are planned for B.C., which has widespread unsettled land claims and very few treaties. The oilpatch is encountering the difficulty of pushing projects through territory in legal limbo.

Some First Nations bands have backed developments, to reap the rewards of employment and financial compensation, but others promise to halt the race to get natural gas and oil to Canada’s West Coast for export to Asia…

… Figuring out just which groups to talk to can prove difficult for energy firms in a province with scant treaties.

“Once there’s certainty that certain lands are treaty settlement lands, industry knows who they have to deal with,” said chief commissioner Sophie Pierre of the B.C. Treaty Commission, which facilitates negotiations between the B.C. government, Ottawa and B.C. First Nations.

“Right now, there’s uncertainty,” Pierre said.

As Enbridge looks to build its 1,200-kilometre, 525,000-barrel-per-day Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Bruderheim, Alta. to Kitimat, B.C. – to the tune of $5.5 billion – it will encounter overlapping land claims in B.C., a thorny issue to tackle.

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It seems maybe some folks don’t read, or look at history… Folks within the oil and gas industry must remember the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline — all too well…

Here’s a CBC story from January of this year discussing some of the history, and current situation with the proposed pipeline.

Mackenzie Valley pipeline: 37 years of negotiation

The proposed gas pipeline from the Beaufort Sea to markets in southern Canada and the United States was billed in the 1970s as “the biggest project in the history of free enterprise.”

It was up to a Canadian judge, Mr. Justice Thomas Berger of British Columbia, to examine the impact of the pipeline on the people who lived in its path.

Dene Chief Frank T’Seleie vowed to stop the pipeline in 1975…

…On May 9, 1977, Berger’s report was released in Ottawa. Significantly, Berger titled his report Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, for above all he wanted the world to know that though the Mackenzie Valley may be the route for the biggest project in the history of free enterprise, people also live there.

Berger warned that any gas pipeline would be followed by an oil pipeline, that the infrastructure supporting this “energy corridor” would be enormous — roads, airports, maintenance bases, new towns — with an impact on the people, animals and land equivalent to building a railway across Canada. Some dismissed the impact of a pipeline, saying it would be like a thread stretched across a football field. Those close to the land said the impact would be more like a razor slash across the Mona Lisa.

The hard news of May 9, 1977, was Berger’s recommendation that any pipeline development along the Mackenzie River Valley be delayed 10 years, and that no pipeline ever be built across the northern Yukon. The pipeline was delayed far longer than 10 years.

By early 2004, the push to get the pipeline built was gathering steam but then met resistance as negotiations between governments, potential pipeline builders and native groups stalled. Those obstacles began to be resolved later that year. And on July 18, 2005, the federal government announced it would spend $500 million over 10 years to address the socio-economic issues of the northern First Nations.

As it stands today, three of the Dene nations have now settled land claims in the area and are entitled to a one-third interest in any project. The nations include members of the Inuvialuit, the Gwich’in and the Sahtuwill and are collectively known as the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

Regardless, the plan is still years from development. Imperial Oil has until Dec. 31, 2013, to make a final decision on whether to proceed with the pipeline at all, although it has asked the NEB for three more years to decide.

Should the company decide by 2013 to go ahead, construction would start in 2014 and production would start in 2018. The project’s estimated price tag of $16.2 billion has ballooned from $7.5 billion prior to 2007.

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Essentially, Thomas Berger recommended no pipeline building until treaties and indigenous land claims were settled. He estimated ten years for that at the time… the pipeline is still not built and seems the costs are ballooning every year.

Do oil execs not do their research on these sorts of things…?

I suppose one could suggest that they do — however arriving in town with blank cheques is probably not the answer…

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This same approach of trying to bulldoze development projects through un-ceded land (e.g. no treaties or land settlements) rings loudly in the recent BC government far-fetched idea of developing at least eight new mines in BC before 2015.

Without even commenting on the state of world stock markets and commodity prices right now… this cliche: bull-in-a-china-shop approach in fact ends out costing everyone far more in the long run: reviews, court cases, blockades, lines-in-the-sand, etc.

There are different ways of going about things… far different ways…

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