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Why the Haisla First Nation are so enthusiastic about LNG

LNG Canada brought prosperity to the Haisla, blazed path for Cedar LNG
From left: Barry Penner, Chief Crystal Smith, Hope Regimbald.

Sometime next year, it’s expected that the LNG Canada complex in Kitimat will begin shipping its first shipments of liquefied natural gas to Asia.

Crystal Smith, chief of the Haisla First Nation, spoke of the project as a game-changing investment that has brought prosperity to her people.

And in the coming weeks, her people are expected to sanction their own LNG project – Cedar LNG – a project that was made possible by the LNG Canada project.

“It has been absolutely amazing to see the impact for not only Haisla but for the region,” Smith said Thursday at the Indigenous Partnership Success Showcase.

The LNG Canada project, which is 90 per cent complete, represents a $40 billion investment, which includes the $18 billion LNG plant in Kitimat, the Coastal GasLink pipeline and upstream natural gas assets in northeastern B.C.

Outside of B.C., there’s little recognition of just how significant the LNG Canada project is for Canada, said Barry Penner, a former B.C. Liberal attorney general and current chairman of the Energy Futures Initiative.

“It’s clear that there isn’t enough recognition of how strategic and important this is for, not just our province but our country as a whole,” Penner said.

The LNG Canada project was proposed more than a decade ago, and was embraced by the Haisla, who welcomed the project and the economic opportunities it would bring.

“We were tired of managing poverty,” Smith said. “Our leadership was just tired of not having solutions. We saw the solutions coming through economic development.”

As a result of the investment and jobs pouring into Kitimat as a reult of the project, the Haisla have been able to build a new apartment complex, a new health centre and invested $5 million into a new language and culture centre to help preserve the Haisla language, Smith said. Her people are enjoying high employment rates, thanks to the LNG Canada project.

“We’re seeing a very low unemployment rate,” Smith said. “If they’re not working on the project, they are actually in school.”

“I think what is the most inspiring aspect of all of this, is the project’s been able to help facilitate reconciliation between our community and neighbouring indigenous communities. We’re seeing other communities benefit from the project, in terms of contract and employment opportunities as well.”

Senior governments have not been quite as enthusiastic about the LNG industry as the Haisla, and are in fact sometimes viewed as putting up roadblocks to the industry.

“I would really like to see LNG not be a dirty word from politicians,” said Hope Regimbald, stakeholder relations lead for LNG Canada.

“We have done… some really incredible world-class, precedent-setting, positive work. We are deeply proud of it. We’re deeply proud of the legacy that it’s going to have in our community. And I’d love the government – all areas of government -- to join us in that acknowledgement and the celebration.”

With LNG Canada having blazed a path, other LNG projects could follow, notably the Haisla’s own Cedar LNG project.

When the Haisla negotiated an agreement with LNG Canada, that agreement included giving the Haisla access to natural gas from the Coastal GasLink pipeline to supply their own LNG project, which will be located on Haisla land.

The Haisla’s industry partner on the $4.6 billion Cedar LNG project is Pembina Pipleine Corp. (TSX:PPL,NYSE:PBA).

Cedar LNG has an environmental certificate and long-term offtake agreements signed, and in April issued a notice to proceed to Samsung Heavy Industries and Black and Veatch on engineering, procurement and construction contracts.

All that’s left now is for the Haisla and Pembina Pipelines to make a final investment decision.

“We’re looking to do an FID sometime soon,” Smith said. “It will be the largest indigenous owned project to FID.”

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