Terrace city council is holding off on an endorsement requested by pipeline giant Enbridge to extend the approval deadline from the province to build a natural gas pipeline from northeastern B.C. to the north coast.
The city is waiting for a revenue sharing agreement with the province and money from Enbridge for staffing costs.
Enbridge officials appeared before council July 25 asking for its support to extend the Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission pipeline environmental certificate for five years past its current end date of 2024.
The certificate would grant approval for the pipeline project pending more specific permits and permissions.
Enbridge official Jennifer Prochera said the company has been asking for similar letters from other local governments and First Nations that would be sent to the province this summer.
She said the city would be able to participate on a committee to examine the project’s economic and social impacts on the municipality and its residents.
Following Prochera’s presentation, Coun. James Cordeiro said there’s no provision for the city to be compensated for the time spent by staff on committees regarding impacts of large scale industrial projects.
The city already sits on committees dealing with the impacts of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project and the LNG Canada project.
“How many [projects] can you effectively be a part of before your staff can’t participate meaningfully?” Cordeiro asked.
He also questioned lack of progress on a revenue sharing agreement so that the province provides a portion of the tax revenue it earns from large projects to local governments. Negotiations for such an agreement have yet to start despite a provincial commitment made five years ago, Cordeiro added.
Any support for Enbridge should be “contingent upon a revenue sharing agreement” and there has to be “some mechanism” for projects to compensate the city for staff time, he said.
The city will draft a letter to the provincial environmental assessment office outlining those priorities.
Chief administrative officer Kris Boland added that due to lack of resources the city has already turned down an invitation from the environmental assessment office to sit on a committee regarding impacts of a multi-billion-dollar LNG project being proposed by the Nisga’a Lisims Government and its partners.
The project, known as Ksi Lisims LNG, is intended for the north end of Pearse Island off the north coast and within Nisga’a territory, has been identified by Enbridge as a potential customer for its pipeline.
Prochera said Enbridge needs a certificate extension because it will not have completed engineering designs and environmental studies along the route or concluded discussions with First Nations and local governments so that it will can start construction by the end date of 2024.
The company also lacks customers with gas who would pay Enbridge to pump it through the pipeline.
“We don’t have a commercial partner yet but we’re working on that,” said Prochera, adding that changes have already been made to the original pipeline plan.
After listening to First Nations and others, Enbridge is lopping off 138 kilometres of pipeline from the northeastern end of the route so as not to interfere with caribou habitat, she said.
Out of five natural-gas powered gas compressor stations along the route, only one will be electric.
Based on the original plan, the pipeline route to the north coast through Nisga’a territory would enter the water at one of two locations with each then turning south toward Prince Rupert.
The largest change that would be included as an amendment in the company’s request would be to build one 48-inch pipeline instead of two as originally planned.
“We could just fairly easily jump off that route and go to any one of the LNG facilities you’ve probably heard of,” said a second Enbridge official, Mark Amundrud.
Cordeiro felt the project had changed greatly from its original plan. He also questioned Prochera’s position that city support for an environmental certificate extension is not the same as supporting the whole project. “That nuance is lost on me and I think it’s a bit of a semantic cutting of the hair …. splitting a hair …,” Cordeiro said.
The first proponent of the project was a company called Spectra that was absorbed by Enbridge in 2017. Enbridge also has a second potential natural gas pipeline project in the northwest.
The Pacific Trail Pipeline was purchased earlier this year from Chevron and would have fed the now-shelved Chevron-lead Kitimat LNG facility at Kitimat with gas from northeastern B.C.
In the northwest, Enbridge is best known for a failed attempt to build an oil-carrying pipeline called Northern Gateway from Alberta to an export terminal at Kitimat. Although approved by the federal government in 2014, there was much opposition in the northwest over the potential for oil spills along the coast.
The project was later abandoned when the federal government banned oil-carrying tankers from north coast waters.