TFN’s LNG vote: LNG climate challenge nearly as big as oilsands. Tsawwassen First Nation vote on Dec 16 (Wed)

(Epilogue: On December 16, 2015, the TFN voted against the LNG project. TFN’s media release on the vote results: click here (PDF). We will add media coverage links later.)

(Article contributed by Peter van der Velden)

In a surprise announcement, Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) has approached the Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) to install a LNG terminal on their land.

The vote

On December 16, the Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) will be asked to vote on whether an LNG terminal will be placed on their lands. As this proposal is to be built on native land, the community of Delta will have no say in this matter.

The driver

This proposal appears to be driven by Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) to simplify the installation of a terminal for the storage and handling of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). It is not a surprise that they would choose to install the terminal in this location on Tsawwassen band lands. This could avoid conflict in the community and possibly expensive, time consuming consultations.

Questionable information from FortisBC

The drive to have a positive result from this vote has been supported by two letters from FortisBC to the Delta Optimist. These letters state that not only is LNG not harmful, but an expansion of LNG facilities in Delta will be good for the environment.

LNG and the environment

LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is largely made up of methane gas. At the terminal, the gas is cooled to a liquid state and thus reduced to 1/600th of its volume for transportation. It can only stay in its liquid state as long as it is contained and kept cool. When it escapes, as it will during handling, it will revert back to its original state and volume.

The effects of LNG on the environment have been researched and well documented. In fact, the BC government has hired consultants to see what can and needs to be done to mitigate the dangers.

“If LNG development proceeds as the B.C. government hopes, we will face a climate challenge nearly as big as the Alberta oilsands, and all the risks and reputational issues that go with it.”

This quote is from Alison Bailie, a senior advisor with the Pembina Institute in B.C.

The Pembina Institute suggests that as much as 30% of carbon pollution from the LNG supply chain will occur at the Terminal. Under “normal operating conditions” this could mean as much as 4 million tonnes of carbon pollution annually in South Delta at the Fraser estuary.

More on the Pembina comments:


A quick vote

Sadly, before an article in the Optimist this week, none of this was being discussed, with the vote just four days away. All that we have is the assurance of Chief Bryce Williams that “best practices” will be followed. How that will be controlled or monitored by the TFN is not clear. How well it has been researched or discussed by the band in preparation for this vote is not clear.

What is clear is that the incentives for the TFN are financial. Undoubtedly, the pressure to perform has been there since the treaty negotiations and agreements of 2004. Agreements in which Port Metro Vancouver is a major participant. In the agreement the Tsawwassen band agrees that:

For greater certainty but without limitation, the TFN agrees that, with respect to the Environmental Assessments relating to the Roberts Bank Port Facility Expansion, the TFN will not raise any Environmental concerns, issues or objections nor make any Environmental comments or submissions that are based on, result from or are in any way attributable to aboriginal status, rights or title.
Page 19, Memorandum of Agreement between theTsawwassen First Nation and the Vancouver Port Authority (Now Port Metro Vancouver) Environmental Assessment Input from TFN

Thus giving up their Native Status rights with regards to the environmental issues surrounding the port expansion. In return they will be financially compensated.

Secret Agreements

As a part of the final treaty this was one of two secret prerequisites that only came to light later through the Freedom of Information process. One can only assume what secret negotiations Port Metro Vancouver has undertaken in order to ensure the success of the vote from the Tsawwassen First Nation. (Links to the relevant documents are provided below.)

It appears that if the vote is ‘yes’ the details and remaining decisions will be handled by only the TFN executive council. According to the CEO Tom McCarthy this is only a vote for the ‘concept’. However, when he states that there are five further approval points the “TFN’s executive council will have an opportunity to say yes or no”.

What will the vote bring

Once again native people are being asked to trade their values of stewardship for the land in exchange for needed economic progress: pitting the value of economic gain from trade of their land against the consequential damage to their land, their surroundings and the environment. In his book, The Inconvenient Indian, native author Thomas King says; “It is beginning to look like colonization, part two”. Hopefully, the band will speak out against this ill-advised use of their land by voting against it.

Peter van der Velden AScT
Facilities Management Consultant

Links for “Secret Agreements” section:

  • TFN_VPA_Memorandum_of_Agreement (Tsawwassen First Nation (“TFN”) and Vancouver Port Authority (“VPA”) Roberts Bank Development – Memorandum of Agreement), November 2004.
  • TFN_VPA_Settlement_Agreement (Tsawwassen First Nation, Chief Kim Baird, Vancouver Port Authority, Her Magesty the Queen in Right of Canada, British Columbia Ferry Services Inc., and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of British Columbia, and B.C. Transportation and Financing Authority, and BC Rail Ltd.), November 5, 2004.
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