Making room for oil in Kitimat, B.C: First Nations response to LNG Development

The coverage of First Nations response to liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in British Columbia has carried over into 2015. At first it may seem like the headline could read: “First Nation groups have changed their tune regarding energy infrastructure in Kitimat, B.C”, but this is a simplified version of the story. In reality it is much more complex, especially in light of opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline and continuing First Nations negotiations to ensure that development on traditional lands will happen on their terms.


Photo by Ariel Smith. Burns Lake, BC, August 2013

During my trip to Kitimat in 2013, I was made aware of the eclectic mix of pure pristine wilderness and burgeoning economic development in the region. The Rio Tinto Alcan plant isn’t far from the fishing hole turn-off, nestled alongside the towering coastal mountains and dark green forest, making this forced harmonization hard to miss. The overlap of development and wilderness in Kitimat mirrors itself in the opinions of those I met. Economic opportunities are welcomed with opened arms, but communities are well aware of the cost to their coast and the island-spotted Douglas Channel. For now, it seems like LNG development is the lesser of two evils and if handled properly could mean important economic benefits for the community and many First Nation groups. It is viewed that natural gas projects are less prone to leaks and spills than oil development is, and therefore seems like the safer choice that may reduce the impact on traditional lands. This view is behind why many have strongly opposed Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, as exemplified in protests such as this:

The most recognized project proposal in the region has been the Kitimat LNG Terminal Project, a joint effort between Chevron Canada and Apache Canada. The project will be located along Bish Cove, close to Kitimat’s port. The project has been approved but is currently delayed due to lagging investment decisions [1] . Aside from this project, 18 different LNG projects have been proposed for the Kitimat region [4], which could amount to almost 3 million dollars in revenue shares for First Nation communities [2]. Below is a video from Apache Canada explaining the Kitimat LNG plans [3]:

An estimated 40% of the northern First Nations (20 groups or so) who will be impacted by the development of LNG plants and pipelines have agreed to terms and conditions regarding revenue shares with the BC government and responsible companies [5]. The Haisla and Wet’suwet’en First Nations are among the 20 groups affected. Both groups are aware of the economic benefits brought on by energy infrastructure in the region and want to make sure they are included in such opportunities.

LNG Terminal Project location on the Douglas Channel. Source: Globe and Mail

Aboriginal communities in Kitimat and throughout British Columbia have not been incorporated into energy development projects in the same way non-Aboriginal Canadians have [2] . Chief Karen Ogen from Wet’suwet’en remarks that this has caused a “dependence on declining funding from the federal government”[5], forcing many to sit and wait for economic help.

Individuals, families, and leaders from northern B.C First Nations are trapped economically because of the exclusion from energy projects. It is not an issue of ‘voiceless’ Canadians; it is a problem of deaf governments and energy proponents, choosing to listen to bits and pieces rather than the whole story. Governments struggle with complex stories because their goal is to build consensus among citizens. The story of LNG support does not jive well with the Enbridge and Canadian government agendas, because by supporting this kind of development, many groups are firm in their decision to keep intrusive oil off their lands.


1. National Energy Board. Kitimat LNG NEB Export Licence Application: Appendix 2 – Project Description and Status. July 27, 2012.

2.Eyford, Douglas R. Foraging Partnerships, Building Relationships: Aboriginal Canadians and Energy Development. November 29, 2013

3. LNG Canada. “What is the transportation process for natural gas?”. Retrieved February 5, 2015 from aboriginal group eyes Enbridge’s

4. Globe and Mail. “Kitimat terminal for LNG project”. (2014, November 27). Retrieved February 1, 2015, from

5. Vancouver Sun. “More First Nations signing on in support of LNG projects in northern B.C”. (2015, January 7). Retrieved February 2, 2015 from First Nations signing support projects northern/10709543/story.html?__lsa=08f2-a93a#ixzz3Qu3

Environmental Justice and Sustainability

Environmental justice offers both an opportunity for political mobilization and action, and a policy principle to guide public decision making [1]. Environmental justice has two main dimensions [2]:

341861) The placing of a discourse of justice firmly within the framework of sustainability;

2) The identification of integral connections between justice and equity, and wider questions of governance.

There are many different definitions of environmental justice and it has some commonality with sustainability, which means ensuring a better quality of life now and in the future, while living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.

Environmental justice is based on the principal that all people have the right to be protected from environmental pollution and live in an enjoyable, clean, and healthful environment [2]. This means the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development of laws, regulations, policies and the equitable distribution of environmental benefits. Both environmental justice and sustainability thus have a common factor and inseparable relationship. However, many countries do not respect such interdependency and are concentrated on sustainability and development while failing to address injustices.

In Brazil struggles over environmental justice are alive and well. Historically, the country failed to consider the indicators and standards for environmental protection and sustainable development. This issue is especially visible in the last century, while Brazilian people were farming and producing coffee. During that time, the farmers had the lowest values of living. All the while the traders and company owners were living with wealth and freedom.

Recently, Brazil has become more interested in social and environmental justice. The country had a strong representation in the international conferences held about environmental justice in South America. Recent studies have focused on extremely important criteria and indicators for living in clean environments with great economy and just social life in Brazil. [1] [3]


[1] Carla Grigoletto Duarte, Kyrke Gaudreau, Robert B. Gibson, Tadeu Fabrício Malheiros, Sustainability assessment of sugarcane-ethanol production in Brazil: A case study of a sugarcane mill in São Paulo state, Ecological Indicators, Volume 30, July 2013, Pages 119-129, ISSN 1470-160X,
[2] Agyeman, J. and Evans, B. (2004), ‘Just sustainability’: the emerging discourse of environmental justice in Britain?. The Geographical Journal, 170: 155–164
[3] Henri Acselrad, The “Environmentalization” of Social Struggles – the Environmental Justice Movement in Brazil

Interpreting the duty to consult in the Innu vs. IOC case

In 2013, the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and of Matimekush-Lac John filed legal proceedings for an injunction against the operations of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) and for damages incurred on the two communities from violations of their Aboriginal title and rights 1, 2. The two communities declare Aboriginal title in their territory Nitassinan, which is an area covering more than 70,000 square km of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula1.

IOC and its majority owner, Rio Tinto, filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the basis that the government should be sued first 6 to establish Aboriginal title and rights, and that “private parties have no obligations with respect to claimed but unproven Aboriginal rights”1. The Superior Court of Quebec rejected that motion and the Court of Appeal has refused IOC’s application for permission to appeal the decision in January 20151.

IOC has been operating mines in the Quebec-Labrador area since 1954. Negotiations between the Innu of Quebec and the mining company have been ongoing for the past 4 years with no resolution 2,3. Out of all the companies that operate on the Innu’s ancestral land (four other companies), IOC remains the only one who has not signed an impact benefits agreement with the Innu of Quebec 2,3. Chief of Matimekush-Lac John, Réal McKenzie states that

“IOC operated twenty mines in the Schefferville area before abandoning them (while savagely destroying the city of Schefferville) in 1982, and continues to operate nearly ten mines on our territory in the area of Labrador City. All of IOC’s projects and activities blatantly violate our rights, particularly our Aboriginal rights and our Aboriginal title. Even after 60 years of discrimination and violation of our rights, we have tried to sit down with IOC to find a solution, and the company has time and again demonstrated that it is not at all interested in reaching a fair agreement, preferring to continue to ignore us just like they always have.  We are fed up.  It is long overdue that IOC pays its rent.” 3

The video below depicts the history between the Innu and IOC and was made for  the “IOC/Rio Tinto Pay the Rent” Innu campaign against the mining company2.

Recently, IOC has increased its production capacity from 18 to 23 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate per year and has plans to open another mine in Labrador City 3. The Innu of Quebec also plan to file legal proceedings with respect to this new mine (Wabush 3) that is to be built on their Nitassinan2.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled ten years ago that governments have a constitutional duty to consult with Aboriginal peoples that may be affected by a project4. In this case, it seems that the government has failed to recognize the constitutional rights of the Innu. In fact, a direct quote from IOC’s project description to register the environmental assessment of the Wabush 3 mine states that:

“… existing and available information does not indicate that Labrador and Quebec Aboriginal groups currently undertake traditional land and resource use activities within or near the proposed Project area. This is in keeping with the fact that significant mining activity has occurred on IOC’s Labrador West properties since the early 1960s, with associated and long-standing public site access restrictions which has prevented the site’s use for traditional and recreational land use activities.” 5

In other words, the Innu are not expected to face significant project impacts because IOC’s operations have illegally occupied their land for the past 60 years. Is it acceptable that the government’s disregard of Aboriginal rights and land claims in the past can be used against those same groups by corporations who plan to develop projects on Aboriginal land in the future? While there is no debate that IOC/Rio Tinto’s stand to hide behind the law is shameful, ultimately, why isn’t the government held accountable for its role in these events? Doesn’t the government owe the Innu of Quebec more than just silence?


1. Tyler, K J. and Chaffai-Parent, C (2015). Uashaunnuat (Innus de Uashat et de Mani-Utenam) V. Compagnie minière IOC Inc. Retrieved from Accessed on February 7, 2015.

2. IOC/Rio Tinto Pay the Rent (2014). Retrieved from . Accessed on February 1, 2015.

3. Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (2014). “Stones of Shame” returned to IOC/Rio Tinto: Innu First Nations demand that IOC/Rio Tinto pay its rent . Retrieved from Accessed on February 4, 2015.

4. Cardinal, E. (2014). A Decade of Duty to Consult with Aboriginal Peoples. Retrieved from Accessed on February 4, 2015.

5. AMEC Environment & Infrastructure , Iron Ore Company of Canada (2013). Iron Ore Company Of Canada Wabush 3 Open Pit Mine Project Labrador West- Environmental Assessment Registration
 Pursuant to the Newfoundland & Labrador Environmental Protection Act. Description of a Designated Project
Pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Retrieved from . Accessed on February 6, 2015.

6. Brown, J. (2015). Quebec Innu win right to sue Rio Tinto. Canadian Lawyer In House. Retrieved from . Accessed on February 6, 2015.

The critical role of EIA for environmental protection in the Plan Nord region

In the following, industrial activities will refer to any development in which environmental protection is not the main objective, such as natural resource extraction, mining, infrastructure projects. Also, protected area and natural reserve will be used interchangeably, both terms having the same signification here.

Plan Nord is an extensive project seeking to develop the economic, social, cultural and tourism potential of the Northern part of Quebec, while at the same time promoting the development, management and use of natural resources (Plan Nord, 2014).

Here the Premier Jean Charest explains the main purpose and objectives of the Plan Nord:

A word about environmental protection? I think he doesn’t care about it…

The main goal of the Quebec government seems to be to use the undisturbed and pristine lands of Northern Quebec for the development of several projects that will threat the surrounding ecosystems. Does it sound great to you? Not to me…

But the Plan Nord also plans to “protect the environment and preserve Northern Quebec’s biodiversity” (Plan Nord, 2014) by setting aside 50% of the territory for protected areas and natural reserves by 2035. Therefore, their implementation is essential in the Plan Nord to protect sensitive areas from industrial developments. For this purpose, the Quebec minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks introduced in April 2012 the Bill 65, called “An act respecting natural heritage conservation and the sustainable development of the area covered by the Northern Plan”, which aims to provide a framework for the ecological conservation and the protection of the environment in the area of the Plan Nord. In particular, section 23 mentions that projects related to the creation of a protected area are subjected to an environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure, as it is stipulated in the chapter II of the Environmental Quality Act (Bill 65, 2012). Therefore, the EIA process is a primordial and mandatory tool in the creation of natural reserves in the Plan Nord area.


Map of the Plan Nord’s territory and existing protected areas in 2011

Source: Nature Needs Half

But some people are concerned by the fact that industrial projects will claim all lands with potential economic and industrial values even if these areas are sensitive and vulnerable, and that the lands granted for protected areas will be the remnant lands with no particular ecological interest for protection. Therefore, as the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (2011) recommends, the priority is to identify sensitive areas which need urgent protection, and to set these lands aside, for preventing any industrial development to occur.  Thus, the EIA process here will have to play an important dual role, by boosting the development of protected areas and supporting the implementation of a network of protected areas in the Plan Nord area, but also by slowing down the development of proposed project likely to have negative impacts on the environment.


Rivière à l’Eau Claire falls, in the national park of Tursujuq in Northern Quebec

Source: Government of Quebec

But… (there is always a “but”) not everything is crystal clear regarding what activities are allowed in natural reserves and there are some discrepancies in the Bill. Indeed, although section 26 prohibits many industrial activities such as mining, petroleum and infrastructures projects, section 29 partially undermines it by stating that these activities could operate under certain conditions determined by the Government (Bill 65, 2012). It means that in the Government interest, such industrial activities could occur in natural reserves even if it endangers and threatens their ecology, which is completely absurd and jeopardizes the goals of a protected area. The future will tell us if the establishment of these natural reserves will attain its objectives of safeguarding the biodiversity against the threat of industrial developments in the region. To be continued…


Bill 65: An act respecting natural heritage conservation and the sustainable development of the area covered by the Northern Plan. (2012). 1st Reading April 17, 2012. 39th legislature. 2nd  session. Retrieved from the National Assembly of Quebec website:

James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment. (2011). Recommendations concerning the implementation of the Quebec Government’s commitment to set aside 50% of Plan Nord lands for environmental protection and other non-industrial developments. Montreal.

Plan Nord. (2014). Retrieved February 7th, 2015 from

When Everybody Works Together, Nothing Trumps the ACE Basin

Integrative Resource and Environmental Management (IREM) is a concept that gets thrown around loosely. According to Slocombe and Hannah, “creating a universal definition for something as complex as IREM is difficult if not impossible.”(p.10) This is because IREM implies that competing interests need to work in unison in order to achieve a common goal. Competing interests such as NGOs, governmental agencies, private landowners and corporate entities tend to have different interests and different goals. A blueprint for the establishment of IREM as a comprehensive framework lies within the ACE basin.

The ACE basin is an estuary in South Carolina comprised of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto (ACE) river basins. Shortly after Europeans discovered the ACE basin, it developed into large and productive plantations, notably rice and cotton. Thereafter, the U.S civil war significantly altered the landscape of the basin. Plantations were torched and dikes overrun. The basin returned to its ‘state of nature’ and wildlife flourished. Wealthy sportsmen from Northern states (Yankees) bought the land for hunting purposes. The old plantations were loosely maintained for hunting purposes and corn/rice became the primary crops, which waterfowl subsisted on.

Today, the ACE basin is approximately one million acres in which about 200,000 of those are protected for conservation and recreational (hunting, fishing, camping) purposes. That area is almost the size of Hong Kong. An alphabet soup of private landowners, NGOs and government agencies brought on the conservation of ACE basin. What’s remarkable about the advent of the ACE basin conservation area was in convincing wealthy landowners to contribute to its success. Private landowners, through “conservation easements”, protected significant plots of land. If a private landowner ‘gifts’ her/his land to a private organization or a public agency, then s/he can receive tax benefits. The value of the land is reduced based on the restrictions bound by conservation easements, making the idea of developing that land less savoury. This persuaded landowners, like media mogul Ted Turner and publishing magnate Gaylord Donnelley, and developers from transforming the ACE basin into another Hilton Head.

Successful conservation sites like ACE basin are based on the premise of IREM, power and persuasion. While IREM is a vague concept, it could be most effectively implemented by the powerful. It’s important to factor in power and persuasion into IREM, and into its cousin, Environmental Assessment, in order to construct an effective framework. The most effective form of power doesn’t come from governments, it comes from the owners of large corporations (i.e. Ted Turner). It’s more effective because of the influence and persuasion they generate. Ted Turner speaks the language of persuasion. Proponents of IREM and EA have to learn that language in order to effectively communicate their message and persuade people like Ted Turner to invest, emotionally and territorially, into more effective IREM and EA. It is generally not an easy task, but it can be done through tax breaks, financial incentives and propagating the instrumental and intrinsic values of IREM.

“No I don’t feel I’m a renegade. I feel I’m very mainstream” – Ted Turner

Other sources

Hanna, K.S. & D.S. Slocombe, eds. 2007. Integrated Resource and Environmental Management: Concepts and Practice. Oxford University Press, Toronto. pp. 1-20.


Declarations of the Colombian Minister of Environment about the need to change its mining licenses to be competitive with Peru are a slap in the face to the environmental reforms that have been done recently in Colombia.(1) Peru can’t be used as a reference for mining development even if the ciphers of the investments from US and China seem a great deal for the Inca Nation. Colombian Ministers should not be comparing their country’s poor mining development with Peru, a country that is compromising its environmental assessment process. This is especially the case considering the ethical problems related to the extermination of Colombia’s forest, rivers and, the slaughtering and displacement of its native communities.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conceived originally as a tool to safeguard the environment in developments while balancing economic viability and positive social impacts (2). However, Latin American nations have shown problems with EA procedures. Peru, the nation that was pointed out by the Colombian Minister, has several examples of poor development of the baseline(3). In the Conga mine assessment, for instance, there was not a comprehensive study of the area, and the communities were severely affected. Mining residues have been polluting the water from the region leaving huge devastation.(4) Unfortunately a poor baseline inhibits mitigation and follow-up mechanisms, bringing deplorable consequences. The lack of comprehensive baselines can annihilate communities and their environment.

Peru has been called the best place in Latin America to invest in mining (7). Even with a gigantic growth of 400% during the last decade and a GDP expansion of 2.4% during 2014 (5) Peru has nothing to envy in terms of sustainability. One of the most catastrophic examples of this ravage mining is at The Madre de Dios, a southern region in Amazonas. With demolishing practices mining in Madre de Dios has destroyed more than 50,000 hectares, leaving a yellow stain of sulfur in the middle of the jungle in 2012.(6) The best place to invest in mining is not the best place for the environment.

There is evidence that an indiscriminate exploration of the land is ravaging the native population of Peru (7). Multiple deadly riots are part of the news in the country. The impact of flexible legislation is represented in hundreds of people and children displaced to other parts of the forest or the cities. There are high levels of child labor, inhumane conditions for the miners, plus  most of the populations that live in nearby areas present very high levels of mercury in their blood(6).  All of this in spite of Peru’s efforts to incorporate the informal miners into the legal mining industry. This problem has increased over the last years caused by the increasing price of gold and the government’s mis-management because of the gold rush (4).

The gold fever seems to be attracting the Colombian Minister of Mines. It seems that he needs a reminder of the consequences that Peru is battling, and how unmanageable the gold fever became for Peru. Colombia is not ready for a bigger development in this sector. There are not conditions to preserve its natural resources. There should not be a proposal from the Mines Minister to change mining legislations. He should be talking about strengthening and enforcing the actual labor mining conditions in order to protect the communities and environment that, after irresponsible development, are in most cases impossible to restore.

Video :




1.Chacon, J. (2015, January 18). Debacle minero se abre camino. Retrieved January 18, 2015, from


  1. (2007, November 2). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from

3.Environmental Impact Assessment Review 30 (2010) 247–261Environmental impact assessment in Colombia: Critical analysis and proposals for improvement Javier Toro a , Ignacio Requena b , Montserrat Zamorano c. ⁎


4.Scientist Calls Peru Conga Mining Project an ‘Environmental Disaster:’ Interview with Reinhard Seifert. (2012, May 1). Retrieved February 10, 2015, from


5.Finally, Good News for Mining in Peru: Ricardo Carrión and Alberto Arispe. (2014, June 3). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from

6.Gold-Mining In Peru Is Much Worse Than Anyone Thought. (2013, October 28). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from


7.Superneau, L. (2015, February 1). Peru usurps Chile as best Latin American country for mining investment. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from

Pushing the Ideas of a Green Economy: Methods for Evaluating Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital

Decisions are founded on simplistic cost-benefit principles and for the better part of human existence, this shallow approach has led us to the staggering seven billion people sharing this one Planet. Unsurprisingly, this caused us to surpass four of our nine planetary boundaries, also known as thresholds in which this Planet is safe for human life.

Planetary boundaries according to the paper by Rockström et al. published in Nature 2009.

This information is made widely available, but is generally ignored by decision and policy-makers. Science has now turned to its lacklustre cousin, economics, to solve the world’s issues, under the umbrella of a Green Economy. It seems that when an ecosystem service can be pegged with a price tag policy makers begin to shift in their seats. Organizations like TEEB are at the forefront of these initiatives, translating the benefits of our natural world into dollar signs with huge success. The Institute for European Environmental Policy refines this idea in practice through its presentation titled Nature and its role in the transition to a Green Economy. A shortcoming is addressed as the efforts for assessing ecosystem value are heavily diluted as we move up the Benefits Pyramid. They state that:

  • There must be a clear understanding of the value of nature and how to take this value into account in public and private decisions in light of the multiple benefits it provides. This is one of many ways of assessing the role and importance of nature.
  • It is important to understand that identifying the value of nature does not suggest that it should have a cost or a price or be traded in the market and hence commoditized.
  • Furthermore, an economic valuation does not necessarily imply a policy response using market-based instruments; there are many instruments that can be used to reflect the values of nature.

Benefits Pyramid

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) can greatly benefit from incorporating natural capital by bringing forth the much needed economic dimension of ecosystem services. According to Noble (2010), scoping is designed to delineate the “key issues and the boundaries to be considered in the assessment”. After the initial scoping phase, impact prediction, evaluation, and management become the crux of the EIA process since they contribute to environmental protection plans. Natural capital can be integrated at the onset of the EIA process as an economic indicator highlighting the importance of ecosystem services. The question you should be asking is: How do I calculate natural capital for EIA?

Henceforth, this will be Dillon Crosilla and my contribution to the ‘science’ of economics and its implications for EIA. The inspiration for an equation comes from Risk Analysis as explained by Peter Sandman and the many initiatives put forth by TEEB. The equation is based on calculating a Return on Investments (ROI) by incorporating natural capital through ecosystem service.

The Return on Investment formula according to Investopedia:

The goal of the following section is to encapsulate the Benefit Pyramid into one economic indicator. The process of evaluating impacts to ecosystem services is based on the degree of change from a natural state (magnitude) followed by the anthropogenic viewpoint that boils down to ‘how much do we care about that change’ (outrage). Next we can add the actual risk these changes may have (hazard). It does not have to stop there; natural capital can encompass the entire range of variables.

Natural Capital =

Hazard * Magnitude * Outrage * Hazard * Extent (Temporal and Spatial) * Degree of Reversibility * Likelihood to Occur * Nature (Direction of Change)…

The best part of this equation is how it can be modified to integrate whatever ecosystem services could be impacted by adding them all together. Natural capital, in this case, is meant to encompass the full value of an ecosystem. Our (simple) modification is based on adding a measure for natural capital to the equation of ROI to better reflect the loss of ecosystem services due to the proposed project’s impacts.

ROI =  (Gain From Investment – Cost of Investment) ÷ (Cost of Investment + Natural Capital)

Going forward would mean that this idea is put in practice and used as a measure for decision making. There exist plenty of other ways to gauge environmental impacts and many more ways of understanding ecosystem services and hopefully this minor contribution can solicit a different take on the EIA process.



Institute for European Environmental (2014) Nature and its role in the transition to a Green Economy. Policy. Accessed February 1st, 2015 from:

Noble (2010). Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment – A Guide to Principles and Practice. Oxford University Press, Second Edition, Canada, 2010