LAX KW'ALAAMS, BC, May 12, 2015 /CNW/ - A packed gymnasium of the northern B.C. Lax Kw'alaams members attended a meeting with Eagle Spirit Energy representatives on Friday, May 8, 2015.
After almost three years of listening to First Nations, Eagle Spirit has put together a proposal to build a pipeline that would ship upgraded/refined crude oil to Grassy Point. Grassy Point, due to its close proximity to open water, is considered the safest location for such a port since oil tankers are only a threat to the environment when they are close to land. The Eagle Spirit Energy proposal is based on the concerns expressed by First Nations in countless meetings across northern B.C. The purpose of the meeting was to request community permission for the signing of an Exclusivity and Benefits Agreement—while not a final agreement it is another small step in the process of continuing to work with the community as a true partner in the project development process.
Hereditary House Leader Xaiget (Robert Sankey) commented, "We like the fact that Eagle Spirit has shown great respect for our culture and protocols by coming to us from the very beginning, truly listening to our concerns, and have put the environment first." At the meeting community member Suu laxha (Brenda Wesley) stated, "I am a well-educated Tsimshian environmental activist from Lax Kw'alaams and I am not easily convinced of the safety of such projects…After taking the time and effort to carefully study the Eagle Spirit project I strongly recommend that our members support it."
Dan Hisey, Senior Technical Advisor to Eagle Spirit and former Chief Operating officer of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (that operates the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System) outlined how the Alaska experience might be used as a foundation to create a world-leading environmental model suited to the conditions of British Columbia and its coastline. He said that, "With the accumulated knowledge and the state-of-the-art technology that exists today, this project could be the safest built in the history of such projects." Community member Eugene Bryant commented, "We liked how First Nations in Alaska are involved in managing the project environmental response on the coast and how aboriginal fishermen were engaged to protect the coast through their Fishing Vessel Training Program."
Several speakers stressed the poverty in the community, the lack of employment, healthcare and housing. Elder Jackie White said, "We have lost our opportunities in the fishing industry, our children are going to school hungry sometimes, many elders live in poverty, and many youth feel there are no opportunities. We have to say yes to projects that protect the environment and offer us real opportunities in a way that respects the environment and our culture."
Hereditary Sm'ooygit (Chief) Nees Wexs (Clyde Dudoward) stated, "We know oil is important to the national economy and will eventually come to the B.C. north coast. We are united in opposing the shipment of bitumen (heavy oil) by rail or other means. The Eagle Spirit Project addresses our concerns while ensuring we have ongoing input into a world-class environmental model."
Matriarch Mn'gadn wii hayetsk (Helen Johnson) said "Our community has taken a first step to building a better future where we have a real partnership based on trust. We are looking forward to developing this project further with Eagle Spirit."
SOURCE Lax Kw'alaams Community
For further information: George Bryant (250) 625-3282 or Robert Sankey (250) 624-5785