Community Corridor Part 3: Looking Ahead to the LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink Project and Expanding Mutual-Aid Networks Across Turtle Island
01/26/2013 § Leave a comment
Julien Delacroix, January 2013
If 2012 was about one thing in British Columbia, it was the explosion of shale gas and pipeline projects on the northern map. The long-time-coming Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) and Kitimat LNG (KLNG) project came to light in a significant way in the orbit of radical grassroots organizing after months of NGO Northern Gateway darkness.
In addition to PTP, a slew of other huge LNG processing terminal/shale gas pipeline projects have come to surface including LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink, BG/Spectra, and Petronas/Progress after help from the free trade hungry, deregulation-happy Harper government.
Of all these projects, LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink is currently the largest, most probable, and most threatening. The Harper conservatives have turned over a good part of the Turtle Island territory to not only resource-hungry corporate industry, but also open to ecological devastation and the violation of indigenous community sovereignty. In a November 2012 essay, Russell Diabo paints a clear picture of the Harper government’s First Nations termination policies.
Coastal GasLink is a prospective shale gas pipeline that would link to a proposed LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) processing terminal in Kitimat, BC. The pipeline would initially carry 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Montney formation in northeastern British Columbia over 700 kilometres from Groundbirch, near Dawson Creek, to Kitimat, on the west coast. The project is owned by a consortium of Companies called LNG Canada led by Shell Canada Limited, including Mitsubishi Corporation, KoreaGas (KOGAS), and, not insignificantly, Petrochina. TransCanada corporation is contracted by LNG Canada to build Coastal GasLink, the same company trying to force through the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline.
PetroChina is a subsidiary of the parent company and oil giant China National Petroleum Company (CNPC). China is now featuring prominently on the Canadian scene with the recent FIPPA deal, the Canada-China version of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, and the Nexxen foreign takeover deal. The deal saw the the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the third largest national oil company in China, swallow up Canadian oil company Nexen Inc., one of the biggest players in Alberta’s Tar Sands.
The LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink project with Shell’s reputation and CNPC’s power have the largesse and experience that Apache Corporation and the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) lack. What PetroChina and LNG Canada’s Asian connections provide is contract clout and access to lucrative Asian market contracts where Apache and other smaller LNG project operators are having difficulty securing higher Asian prices.
The LNG Canada project in Kitimat has been estimated to be in the $12 billion range, while the Coastal GasLink pipeline is estimated at $ 4 billion, and according to BC Energy Minister Rich Coleman is slated as “one of the largest, if not the largest, investments ever in B.C.” The pipeline dimensions are projected at 48″ (1.2 meters), six inches larger in diameter than PTP. In short, everything about this pipeline is big.
On October 16, 2012, after a presentation to District of Kitimat Council, North West Coast Energy News reported that “Rick Gateman, President of Coastal GasLink Project, told council that the project is now at a ‘conceptual route’ stage because TransCanada can’t proceed to actual planning until it has done more detailed survey work and community consultations.”
The Grassroots Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en camp, however, will tell you that a conceptual route is all it will ever be. On December 10, 2012, Lihkts’amisyu clan chief Toghestiy was being interviewed by Focus Magazine. When asked what the future of the pipelines was and what the future of the camp was, he replied, simply, “The Pipeline is not happening. The camp is going to be here forever.” He was referring more specifically to the Pacific Trails Pipeline, but the grassroots community of the Wet’suwet’en have made it unanimously clear that whether PTP, Enbridge Northern Gateway, Coastal GasLink, BG/Spectra or any others, oil and gas pipelines period will not be allowed through their territories.
What is amazing is that the model being developed is grassroots-resourced community resistance that is standing up to 6, 8, 12 billion dollar industry investments, standing up to some of the biggest, most expensive, and most threatening energy infrastructure projects in the history of Colonial canada.
What is significant about this recent upsurge of resistance communities is the awareness that their effectiveness and sustainability lies in building long-term, radical alternatives. A few of these such communities are the Anishinabek Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp in Southern Ontario, the Nuu-chah-nulth Sovereign Housing Project in Ahousat, near colonial Tofino, the Gitksan Unity Movement beginning cabin building on their traditional territories, and dozens of others across Turtle Island. The Community Corridor, which is currently being developed, aims to do exactly what these communities are doing, but to combine their efforts in an organized, integrated support network across Turtle Island. Many of these current communities are Indigenous, but the Community Corridor will be inclusive to those and farming, anarchist, and permaculture communities alike.
The structure should be a very well-organized and well-coordinated network, akin to a federation of collectives that each remain very much autonomous while working very closely with each other. The collectives, communes, and communities engaged in this effort should work very closely not only in land defense and resistance, but also in terms of trade and mutual aid. All of these communities should be autonomous in terms of their territorial sovereignty, their decision-making processes and governance structures, and their means of production for food and otherwise. In resisting the system and dependence to industrial consumerism these autonomous communities will need to create networks as alternatives. First they will need to develop networks of mutual aid; collective systems of support to compensate and protect from the resource and capacity vulnerability of operating outside of industrial civilization. This network would serve as a collective safety net for inter-cooperation in security, resources, and capacity between communities. Call this mutual aid support network ‘alternative social security’.
Alternative governance is also a primary component. Communities will each need to determine their forms of autonomous decision-making processes and social organization, and how these can effectively link together across collective networks or a structure of decentralized federated communities. Lastly, these collective communities will require the creation of well-organized trade networks to efficiently exchange food and resources across territories and regions, an alternative economy that should be grounded in mututal aid, collective support, and reciprocity.
The Unis’tot’en camp is now a major resistance front in the battle against the expansion of oil and gas infrastructure and pipelines in North America. The Pacific Trails Pipeline and Coastal Gaslink are strategic pieces of the international infrastructure of the capitalist economy, and the Unist’ot’en resistance camp stands to impede that strategic expansion.
As Brett Rhyno outlines in a separate Community Corridor analysis piece, “It’s time for grassroots networks to boldly unite together in an integrated effort to stop the East, West, and South pipeline corridors with the ultimate goal of shutting down tar sands and fracking at the source.” East, West and South means a comprehensive allied network, and a continent-wide strategy that covers all of North America. The nature of the industrial oil and gas infrastructure is such that it aims to cover vast distances, and so ecological resistance must respond in kind to beat pipelines at their own game.
The Community Corridors must match industrial capitalism’s regional strategies with integrated continental efforts and organization, carefully calculating industry’s plans and projects and responding with countermeasures like pieces in a chess game. However, it is pivotal to understand that resistance in this context will mean not only frontline resistance to extraction and industrial infrastructure, but also the active building and creation of sustainable autonomous alternatives. The strength of this project lies in its ability to build its own power by generating capacity in self-reliance. Federated communities can aim to achieve this together through collective systems of localized, decentralized production and trade. Let communities depend on each other instead of depending on the system that aims to keep them divided and competing.
Community Corridor is a long-term project, and one that is going to be very challenging to carry forward. It is an ambitious plan, but a plan that gives us a legitimate chance at overcoming material and social dependencies to the industrial system. In other words, dependence is captivity and slavery, and self-reliance will be our freedom. Sovereignty is an important condition, but it is relevant to the whole of life, and not just to politics.
We must have sovereignty economically, socially, sovereignty over our media and our information, food sovereignty to be the owners of our own health and nutrition. Imagine a world where local and regional mutual-aid networks of communities begin to substitute globalized industrial production. We can make it a reality. It is a very comprehensive project and will take years and decades to carry out, but it is not complicated in nature. It is a plan that can conceivably be carried out in our lifetime and one that keeps the future, and those who will inhabit it, firmly in mind. A friend and fellow organizer, Anton Bueckert, reflects that a plan and strategy that does not hold future generations as the crux of what we are doing today is not a strategy that is going to bring about the type of change we are looking for. He is absolutely right. Let us build a strategy inherent of systemic change and long-term possibilities that puts human and ecological substance as central to a free, healthy, and sustainable future.
The Causes and Implications of Chevron’s Takeover of EOG and Encana in KLNG/PTP, and a Decentralized Energy Future
01/26/2013 § Leave a comment
Julien Delacroix, January 4, 2013
At present, one of the major LNG processing terminal and shale gas pipeline undertakings in northern BC is the Kitimat LNG/Pacific Trails Pipeline project. KLNG/PTP was until very recently owned by a consortium including EOG Resources, Encana Corporation, and majority owner Apache Corporation. The scheme would aim for PTP to connect shale gas from the existing Spectra Energy transmission system near Summit Lake, BC, to its processing terminal in Kitimat on the west coast. From there, the LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is to be loaded onto tankers via the dubious Douglas Channel, and bound for Asian markets.
In recent months and weeks, business news and analysis had been reporting that KLNG may have overplayed its hand, estimating itself too easily capable of securing contracts with lucrative Asian markets. Serious buyers such as Japan and China with some of the world’s largest markets hold the ability to dictate the terms of negotiation, and typically look for producers of size, clout, and reputation that can guarantee supply. KLNG has continued struggling to secure contracts.
In a November 25th article in Alberta Oil Magazine, Jeff Lewis writes that “Apache Canada Ltd. and partners EOG Resources and Encana Corp. have struggled to ink sales deals with overseas buyers for their Kitimat LNG scheme, citing “unrealistic expectations” on prices.”1
In the same article, Asish Mohanty of the energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie said in an interview that “the Asians see that Kitimat LNG, as a partnership, doesn’t really have any partners with significant LNG experience, or an LNG portfolio that it can draw upon.”2 Dave Cooper of the Edmonton Journal in a November 13th article writes that what Asian LNG buyers seek is “experienced operators with their own supplies from other regions of the world.”3 Mohanty, for his part, goes on to say that Apache and its smaller partners “don’t bring that level of credibility in the marketplace. That’s why the market expects a discount on the LNG price.”4 The three giant projects in Northern BC that are seen to have everything it takes to lock down the higher-end Asian deals are Shell and PetroChina’s LNG Canada, Petronas/Progress, and BG/Spectra.
The plan for KLNG had been that profit for the operation would come from the difference between the North American market price and the higher Asian price. But, in October and November, 2012, it became clear that Apache and the KLNG consortium would struggle to find the contracts they were looking for when “Cheniere Energy, owners of the only approved U.S. LNG export terminal project in Louisiana, signed a deal with foreign customers that is based on North American gas prices, not the hoped-for oil-linked index used in Asia. The difference is huge.”5 That sought-after Asian price is called the Japan Cleared Customs price, which is a percentage of the price of oil. Some analysts even go as far as saying that if Cheniere has set a precedent for future North American LNG deals, that some of BC’s touted LNG projects will not be built.
On November 20th, 2012, Apache-contracted surveyors doing work for PTP were intercepted on Unist’ot’en territory. The field workers, employees of a smaller land surveying and engineering company Can-Am Geomatics out of Fort St-John, BC, had set GIS and mapping equipment some 20 kms west of the Unist’ot’en resistance camp. They were ordered to vacate the territory immediately and told that industry activity was unwelcome on Wet’suwet’en territory. The surveyors returned the next morning and were engaged in the Unist’ot’en’s Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol, but were denied access to the territory. They had come to retrieve their materials left behind the previous day which were instead confiscated by the resistance camp.
Following the eviction, a call was put out for a broad day of action. On November 27th allies mobilized from twenty cities across Canada and the U.S, stretching coast to coast from St. John’s, NF to Victoria, BC, with support actions south of the border in New York, California, and Texas. Letters were delivered to PTP consortium companies as well as major shareholders RBC, and Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd. The letter asserted the sovereignty of Wet’suwet’en territory and clearly re-iterated their denial of consent to the pipeline project, stating that “any further unauthorized incursion into traditional Wet’suwet’en territory will be considered an act of colonialism, and an act of aggression against our sovereignty.”
Chevron Steps In
It may have been EOG and Encana desisting due to Unist’ot’en resistance and grassroots divestment pressure, or Apache may have urged a shift in the project lagging under emerging challenges. Maybe a little bit of both. On Christmas Eve KLNG/PTP announced that EOG and Encana had sold their shares in the project to Chevron, allowing the California-based oil giant to move into a 50% ownership position along with Apache. It seems likely that Apache felt it necessary to make a change under building adversity by enlisting brunt and experience from a big player to help muscle through.
What does this mean for the grassroots resistance to KLNG/PTP? Absolutely nothing, in the sense that the effort must remain as determined, pointed, and focused as it has been. The community resistance to PTP must take this as an opportunity for a renewed and reenergized sense of purpose, and to resolve in the new year to get even more creative than it has been up to this point. Stay alert, stay responsive, closely follow the movements of industry, always stay one step ahead, and dictate the terms of the engagement. Confidence, love, and resolve in a cause are worth more than any dollar amount of billions.
Indigenous and radical environmentalist resistance has filled the action and awareness void that NGOs have left vacant during the recent months of endless one-track-mind Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway campaigning. So endemic has this trend been that certain chiefs and aboriginal nations along with settler communities alike have taken the deceived and confused position of opposing Tar Sands extraction and pipelines while seemingly treating the fracking and shale gas pipelines as inexistent. To be sure, much of the disconnect is a void of information over an issue that is just recently beginning to properly register in the collective public consciousness. The shale gas pipelines have largely fallen under the radar because of institutional social justice’s tendency to compartmentalize issues like high school subjects and treat them like pop culture trends. People eat up the Enbridge Northern Gateway hype like the latest Harry Potter movie. In other words, much of it has been the product of the narrow NGO campaign funding structure which isolates issues like islands, often obscuring the big picture perspective. We do, however, live in a big picture-world where ecological degradation and climate change are non-negotiable game cards which determine that opposing the Alberta Tar Sands while remaining silent on the pipelines slated to carry fracking’s shale gas is not a rational proposition.
As if we didn’t already have our hands full enough with the Tar Sands. But here we are, Turtle Island, Mecca of natural resources and coveted energy diamond in a future of scarcity. China is setting its pieces on the map; in South America with large energy stakes in Brazil and free trade deals with Chile and Peru, land grabs in Africa, and now taking its place amidst the shale gas and LNG export rush in BC’s northwest. U.S geopolitics will respond in kind with their giants, and Christmas Eve’s Chevron move could be an early indication. Either way you spin it, the Montney Shale Formation and the Horn River and Liard basins will be big names in the upcoming decades of jockeying and development for unconventional fossil fuel sources, and the northwest is playing out as an up-and-coming and strategic energy battleground. The greed mentality of industry and extraction seeks to lock up access to resources and markets before they are all gone, while the aspirations of grassroots communities aim to defend the sovereignty and integrity of the land for traditional and ecological living. Whether the Tar Sands, BC’s shale gas, or even the giant Green Point shale oil deposits in Newfoundland, the one thing that is clear is that they must all remain in the ground.
Finally, what also needs to be a game-changer is for us to cast aside the arrogant and grandiose globalized vision, and to forget about shipping energy half way around the world. The substance needs to be different, but the medium must also change. Massive centralized solutions are not going to get us anything except more of the same. If energy is to be in sync with communities and to have a positive role to play in the future, it will have to be localized and decentralized. The second biggest U.S oil company is, of course, a far cry from this goal, but the question here is not who will be trying to pump all the fossil fuels out of the ground, but rather how we are going to stop them, and what radical, community-driven alternatives we will put in their place. It is not always the type of change that is most important, but how it happens, and it must be effectuated in a world that is ours, on our own terms. Creativity and resourcefulness will be the substance that guides this process. Let us put our hearts, hands, and minds together for a localized and decentralized energy future.
1. Jeff Lewis, Santos Ltd. talks collaboration on LNG amid rising costs, AlbertaOilMagazine.com: http://www.albertaoilmagazine.com/2012/11/collaboration-on-lng-urged-amid-rising-costs/, Nov.25, 2012.
3. Dave Cooper, Co-operation, Not Proliferation, Key to BC’s LNG Projects, Analysts Say, Edmonton Journal: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/energy-resources/operation+proliferation+projects+analysts/7543182/story.html, Nov.13, 2012.
4. Ibid, Jeff Lewis.
5. Dave Cooper, Depressed North American Price Makes LNG a Risky Business, Edmonton Journal: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Depressed+North+American+price+makes+risky+business/7351551/story.html, Oct.5, 2012.