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Lawyer asks industry not to use Site C power

A lawyer has asked natural gas producers not to use power generated from the proposed Site C dam out of respect for First Nations opposition to the project.

A lawyer has asked natural gas producers not to use power generated from the proposed Site C dam out of respect for First Nations opposition to the project.

“True reconciliation of First Nations, LNG Sector, and BC government interests requires further respect for, and accommodation of, First Nations’ constitutionally protected treaty rights, title and interests,” Rob Botterell wrote in an open letter.

“The Site C dam would adversely impact First Nations’ treaty rights.

"I am calling on LNG industry sector companies whether upstream natural gas producers, midstream pipeline operators, or downstream LNG facility operators to respect Treaty 8 treaty rights, title and interests and to commit to never using electrical power from Site C," he added.

Botterell has represented First Nations interests as a lawyer in other cases.

He requested that the natural gas industry use “a suitable combination of natural gas, wind power and geothermal power generation” instead.

Botterell suggests that in impact benefit agreements with these First Nations, producers could include language saying they will not buy energy from BC Hydro, and that they would support First Nations opposition to the dam project.

The Site C dam is a proposed hydroelectric dam set to be built seven kilometers from Fort St. John.

It could cost around $8.8 billion. Construction has already been delayed from January 2015 to this summer.

First Nations have expressed strong opposition.

A Joint Review Panel report issued last year found that the project will have impacts on First Nations' treaty rights to hunt, fish and other activities that could not be mitigated.

Politicians have wavered on whether the dam is being built primarily for the LNG industry or to meet residential energy needs.

“LNG is our priority in British Columbia and we don’t need to do Site C in order to fuel up the LNG industry,” Premier Christy Clark was quoted as saying last December.

One company contacted by Alaska Highway News couldn’t rule out using power from Site C, however.

“There are multiple options for the supply of power in support of our long term operating needs, and Progress Energy will evaluate each option against our commitment to communities, First Nations and the environment,” wrote Stacie Dley, a Progress spokesperson.

“Supply from the grid for our purposes would not necessarily mean dedication to one generation site or another — due to the nature of electricity distribution, but it is very early in our evaluation process to be able to comment on specific plans.”

BC Hydro communications manager Craig Fitzsimmons said they needed more time to read the letter before offering comment.

It’s unclear whether or not this measure would have the support of Treaty 8 First Nation chiefs.

Chief Marvin Yahey of the Blueberry First Nation said he would bring Botterell's letter to his council for discussion, and said a  position would be forthcoming.

Messages to other Treaty 8 chiefs within B.C. were not returned as of press time.

Ministry of Energy and Mines spokesman David Haslam said that the province “respects the interests and concerns of First Nations and continues to work closely with many First Nations on how they can realize the economic opportunities from the LNG industry, Site C and independent power projects.”

He added that “it is important to note that BC Hydro's electricity system is integrated and does not pinpoint a single resource, such as Site C, to a single industry, nor does it specify which Hydro facility supplies power to which customer.”