Native pipeline opponents vowed this week to keep fighting TC Energy Corp.’s Coastal GasLink project across northern British Columbia (BC) despite a permanent court injunction and police enforcement order granted Dec. 31 against interference with construction.
The firm replied with an invitation to truce talks and a promise to limit work at the protest sore spot midway along the 670-kilometer (400-mile) route of the supply conduit for LNG Canada, a major natural gas export terminal under construction at Kitimat on the northern Pacific coast of BC.
While a protester response is awaited, a construction camp in the contested zone will stay vacant and the only industry activity will be visits for safety and environmental purposes, according to Coastal GasLink.
“We believe dialogue is preferable to confrontation,” the company added.
The protester faction -- led by self-described “hereditary chiefs” of the Unist’ot’en or Dark House clan in the Wet’suwet’en tribe -- circulated a cross-Canada appeal for public sympathy rallies by native rights supporters.
The protesters also cited a letter to Canadian governments that endorsed pipeline resistance by native rights crusaders from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The New Year’s Eve injunction verdict by the BC Supreme Court included a warning that disrupting the project potentially makes protesters liable to prosecution for violating Canadian Criminal Code sections, carrying penalties of up to five years in prison.
Last January, police enforcement of a temporary injunction, which dismantled dissenter protest structures, led to a flurry of arrests on a remote stretch of the northern pipeline route and inspired small sympathy rallies across the country.
The avowed hereditary chiefs are dissenters from cooperation and benefits agreements that Coastal GasLink made with all 20 elected tribal governments along its C$6.6 billion ($5 billion) conduit for up to 5 Bcf/d. Outside the contested area, construction is resuming on schedule after a holiday recess.
TC Energy is building and would operate the pipeline but does not control access to it. All capacity, initially 2.1 Bcf/d and capable of expansion to 5 Bcf/d, is dedicated to LNG Canada partners Royal Dutch Shell plc, Petronas, PetroChina Corp., Mitsubishi Corp. and Korea Gas Corp.
Shell holds a 40% stake and would operate the project, which was sanctioned in October 2018 and is expected to be shipping to Tokyo Bay by the mid 2020s. Initially, the project is to consist of two liquefaction trains that together would provide 14 million metric tons/year. There is also an option to expand to four trains in the future.