British Columbia Tripartite Working Group Makes Workforce Recommendations for LNG Development in the Face of Environmental Controversy and Public Opinion

Since September 2013, the Premier’s Liquefied Natural Gas Working Group has met to discuss workforce planning, skills training, and the use of temporary workers in LNG projects. Described by the government as “unprecedented”, the working group included representatives from government, industry, the Haisla Nation, and organized labour, specifically: United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 170; B.C. Federation of Labour; B.C. and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council; B.C. Government and Service Employees Union; Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611; and Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 280. The Working Group released their final report on March 31st and all fifteen recommendations were accepted by the Premier on April 3rd. Next step: a 10-year skills-training plan. The Terms of Reference did not include the environmental impact of the proposed LNG development and the contention that the LNG production will make it impossible for B.C. to meet its legislated carbon emissions targets.

The Final Report provides an inventory of existing and proposed LNG development in B.C. as of March 2014, as well as analysis of the workforce data and issues as identified by the B.C. Natural Gas Workforce Strategy and Action Plan, released in July 2013 and since updated by the government. Fifteen recommendations include the use of best practices relating to apprenticeship, mobility of labour within B.C. and Canada, and most contentiously, the use of temporary foreign workers. The report calls for the formation no later than July 2014, of an ongoing body which would include government, labour unions, industry and contractors, and First Nations, to participate in workforce planning, skills training, and to develop a protocol for the use of temporary foreign workers, “to limit their use, but also to plan accordingly for their use if and when needed”.

Many First Nations groups oppose LNG development, and a new public opinion survey released on April 24 shows that 78% of British Columbians agree that “B.C. should transition away from using fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy to prevent climate change from getting worse. More than two thirds (67%) agree the province should decrease its reliance on fossil fuel exports to avoid future boom and bust economic cycles”. The survey was commissioned by the Pembina Institute, Clean Energy Canada and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, and conducted by Strategic Communications Inc. in April of 2014.

LINKS

Premier’s Liquefied Natural Gas Working Group: Final Report is available at: http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/pubs/pdf/lng_final_report.pdf, with a press release and backgrounder from B.C. Premier’s Office at: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/04/premiers-lng-working-group-recommendation-road-map.html

“Key Native Group in Northern B.C. threatens to Stop Talks on Pipelines” in the Globe and Mail (April 21) at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/native-group-threatens-to-stop-talks-on-pipelines/article18088799/, but also see “B.C. and First Nations sign first LNG revenue-sharing Agreement, and Backgrounder” at: https://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/04/bc-and-first-nations-sign-first-lng-revenue-sharing-agreements.html

Public Opinion Survey is available from the Pembina Institute website at: http://www.pembina.org/pub/2539

See also the BC LNG Info website, maintained by the Northwest Institute, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and Headwaters Initiative, with the stated goal of providing impartial, up to date information about the LNG industry in B.C. for the benefit of the community. See http://bclnginfo.com/newsroom for news and updates.

Northern Gateway Headed to Court as NEB Approval Provokes Criticism of Review Process

On December 19th, the National Energy Board granted conditional approval to the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, citing 209 conditions.The federal NDP and Green parties criticized the decision, while some opponents of the pipeline allege the joint review panel itself has been “undemocratic” and has undermined the integrity of the environmental review process in general, echoing an August 2013 lawsuit in which NGO ForestEthics claimed NEB public participation rules were unconstitutional. A series of at least 10 lawsuits has been launched in response to the NEB approval, notably one by B.C. Nature and one by a coalition of NGOs including EcoJustice, ForestEthics, Living Oceans Society, and Rainforest Conservation Foundation. The environmental groups allege the Joint Review Panel (JRP) final report contains serious legal and scientific gaps, such as uncertainty regarding geohazards along the pipeline route and the behaviour of spilled bitumen in marine environments. They claim the JRP also failed to address legal obligations to the humpback whale and caribou populations whose habitats lie in the pipeline path, both of which are protected under the Species at Risk Act.

Three First Nations, Gitxaala, Git’gat, and Haisla, have launched lawsuits of their own calling for federal review of the NEB decision. They claim their unique constitutional rights regarding development on their lands were also neglected during the review process.

Read the press release from EcoJustice on their lawsuit at: http://www.ecojustice.ca/media-centre/press-releases/environmental-groups-launch-lawsuit-over-flawed-northern-gateway-report. CBC coverage of lawsuits from environmental groups is available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/northern-gateway-pipeline-report-draws-lawsuit-1.2501051; coverage of First Nations lawsuits is available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/gitga-at-northern-gateway-lawsuit-joins-9-other-challenges-1.2507155.

According to West Coast Environmental Law, Enbridge may be experiencing difficulty attracting investment to the project in light of persistent opposition. See: NEB’s Thumbs Up Ignores Wall of Opposition that will Stop Enbridge (Jan. 16) is at: http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/neb%E2%80%99s-thumbs-ignores-wall-opposition-will-stop-enbridge.