The Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority (TESA) is a new organization representing five First Nations Bands (Metiakatla, Kitselas, Gitxaala, Kitsumkalum, Gitga’at) who came together to work with Pacific NorthWest LNG to assess the environmental impact of LNG on their territories. Pacific NorthWest LNG president Michael Culbert told the Globe and Mail, “We applaud the initiative taken by Tsimshian leadership to act and speak with a collective voice when it comes to environmental stewardship.”
LNG was the ticket the Liberal party hoped would fill the coffers with tax money, then it came to a halt when the Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale ousted the government officials from an Aboriginal LNG conference in 2014. The action, which seemed extreme at the time, was a reaction to the BC government passing a bill without consulting First Nations; the bill would have allowed gas plants to be exempt of environmental assessment.
First Nations leaders were skeptical of government acting behind their backs, and a year later TESA gave them a voice. The members of TESA stated in a letter to government and oil companies: “We look forward to engaging Lax Kw’alaams, the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, and project proponents to work together to find a path forward that protects the environmental legacy with which we are entrusted. Our Nations agree that resource development can only take place when the environment and our communities are protected.”
The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation is a Tsimshian Band that turned down a billion dollars because they felt the LNG project would endanger the Flora Bank salmon habitat. The Lax Kw’alaams did not join TESA, and although there have been negotiations between the Band council and Pacific NorthWest LNG, there are no positive results so far. This will be part of the challenge TESA must deal with. Can they be a liaison in negotiations? The LNG companies have stated they will make changes to their proposal to ensure First Nation leaders demands are taken seriously. David Keane, president of BC LNG Alliance, told the CBC, “Our members are committed to working with First Nations to build a positive, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relationship.”