MEDIA RELEASE AUGUST 1, 2012
At a Special Council Meeting held on July 31, 2012, Mayor and Council of the District of Fort St. James unanimously voted to adopt a resolution declaring their opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. The District of Fort St. James is one of the first municipalities located along the proposed pipeline route to take a formal stance on the project. The decision to oppose the project was based on the results of a public opinion poll, numerous presentations by Enbridge, concerns raised by a local Fort St. James Sustainability Group, conversations with members of the public and the personal opinions of Council members.
At the special meeting, Mayor MacDougall articulated Council’s rationale for speaking against the project: “We feel we have listened objectively to the presentations made by Enbridge, the Fort St. James Sustainability Group and the public. We have taken the time to research the desires of our community, and we believe we have done our due diligence. Our decision is based on our valuing of the land base and our fresh water sources. Of particular concern locally is the crossing of the Stuart River, which accommodates one of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world, and Pitka Creek which flows into Stuart Lake. If anything should happen to the pipeline and spill into our river and lake, there will be no turning back the clock. There is no economic benefit that could outweigh the impact that would have on people’s lives here and the quality of life we enjoy.”
In June 2012 Council made the decision to hold a public opinion survey and open house for community members to share their thoughts on the project. Council’s objective was to see if there was desire from the public for Council to take a political stance on the project. The anonymous survey was distributed by hard copy and through online media over a period of 12 days. Of the 198 responses to the survey, a significant majority were in favour of Council adopting a stance against the Northern Gateway project. The concerns expressed in the survey responses focused on the potential for negative environmental impacts in the community, region and province.
In response to the news of Council’s announcement of a position on the project, Chief Fred Sam of the nearby Nak’azdli First Nation spoke about the decision. “We believe this is good news. This will strengthen the partnership between ourselves and the District, and we look forward to continuing to build this relationship with Fort St. James.”
In July of 2011, the District of Fort St. James registered as Government Participants in the joint review process. On the original registration Council cited their areas of interest as being environmental, social, economic, consultative, and engagement of First Nations. An Information Request was submitted in August 2011 asking about local employment/contracting, community investment, the relationship between Enbridge and the Nak’azdli First Nation, components of the National Energy Board Act with impacts it may have on nearby landowners, emergency response coordination with the local communities, and potential forest fire impacts should a leak occur. A response was received from the proponent in December 2011.
District of Fort St. James Mayor and Council intend to register to speak at the final Public Hearings of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) in Prince George this fall, as well as submitting a letter of comment regarding their public opposition. Council has been appreciative of Enbridge’s responsiveness as a corporation to the questions raised in the community, and to the open communication processes they have worked to establish with Mayor and Council.