VICTORIA — The manager of a proposed liquefied natural gas export plant on British Columbia's northern coast joined Premier Christy Clark Wednesday in touting two agreements reached with First Nations as important milestones for the project's future.
Clark and Wan Badrul Hisham, Pacific NorthWest LNG's chief project manager, said the land, cash and environmental agreements are important steps forward.
However, neither was prepared to make an official announcement about the project's future.
Malaysian-backed Petronas has yet to make a final investment decision on Pacific NorthWest LNG's project near Prince Rupert and Clark's government returned to the legislature Tuesday warning that LNG projects face "unforeseen head winds."
Clark promised billions in liquefied natural gas investments and 100,000 jobs leading up to the 2013 provincial election, but that hasn't materialized. In November, Woodfibre LNG was the first to announce it was proceeding with a $1.6 billion development near Squamish.
The federal government announced in September that after a rigorous environmental review it had approved Pacific NorthWest LNG's project. It would include an $11 billion plant and pipeline for a total capital investment of $36 billion. The approval came with 190 legally binding conditions that would lessen the environmental impacts of the project.
Despite government concerns about downturns in energy markets, Clark said the benefits deals with the Lax Kw'alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation mark the co-operative spirit required to pave the way for the project.
"All great relationships are founded on trust and respect," she said. "This is another major step forward for LNG in B.C."
The agreements with the Lax Kw'alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation are tied to the project proceeding and include the transfer of about 3,000 hectares of land and almost $145 million.
If it goes ahead, the project would create up to 4,500 construction and 350 permanent jobs.
Hisham, who attended a signing ceremony at the B.C. legislature, said the benefit deals build long-lasting relationships between the First Nations, the province and his company.
"The agreements between Pacific NorthWest LNG and the Metlakatla First Nation and the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation, together with the agreements between the government of B.C. and the First Nations communities will serve as a foundation for a long-term beneficial partnership," he said.
Mayor John Helin of Lax Kw'alaams said their agreement marks the first time his people have been included in developments in their traditional territories.
Last month, the two First Nations and the federal and B.C. governments signed an environmental monitoring deal that outlines how the levels of government will oversee environmental issues over the lifetime of the proposed LNG project.