First Nation group takes to court to block gas pipeline from Northeast B.C.

A First Nation group in central B.C. is taking to the courts to block a pipeline that would carry gas from fields in Northeast B.C. to a proposed liquefied natural gas plant on the coast. 

On Wednesday, Luutkudziiwus, a First Nation group located outside Hazelton, announced it would seek to overturn an Environmental Assessment Certificate granted to TransCanada's Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline.

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The line would run from outside Hudson's Hope to Petronas's controversial Pacific NorthWest LNG plant proposed for B.C.' s north coast. 

The announcement coincides with a liquefied natural gas conference being held in Vancouver this week.   

The Luutkudziiwus are a house group of the Gitxsan First Nation. According to spokesperson Richard Wright, the house has a population of 600.  

The group is not associated with the Unist'ot'en, a First Nation group that has been blockading the Coastal Gaslink pipeline further south. That pipeline would carry gas from the South Peace to a separate export plant. 

However, like the Unist'ot'en, the Luutkudziiwus have been turning away surveyors along the line.  

"We have a big gate across the road," Wright said of a protest camp set up to block the pipeline. 

"We have 24-7 monitors. We've turned government away, we've turned industry away because we haven't been consulted on any resource extraction. We've had our land and resources on lockdown for 14 months."   

Wright added the proposed terminal, which would disturb salmon habitat on the coast, would have impacts on the band despite being 300 kilometres up the Skeena River. 

Wright said the group has also been in contact with Treaty 8 First Nations in Northeast B.C. 

"We'd hope the other bands within the Treaty 8 area would stand united with the people who are objecting to this project," he said. 

"There's got to be consideration down the pipeline." 

A TransCanada representative described the situation as a dispute between "a small group within the Gitxsan Nation and the provincial government," saying "it would be inappropriate for us to speak to it."  However, the pipeline has found support among some First Nations. 

In June, TransCanada signed project agreements with the Doig River, Halfway River and Yekooche First Nations that will compensate the bands with annual "legacy" payments over the life of the pipeline.

 The Luutkudziiwus house group was one of the plaintiffs in the Delgamuukw case, a precedent-setting ruling on aboriginal land title by the Supreme Court of Canada. 

The band is also seeking to overturn a B.C. Oil and Gas Commission permit granted to the pipeline.      

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