FORT NELSON, B.C. — A BC Supreme Court judge has ruled against the BC Oil and Gas Commission, overturning the Commission’s approval of a natural gas pipeline north of Fort Nelson.
In an oral decision on December 15th, Madam Justice Gerow found that the OGC’s conduct was “unreasonable” and described the Commission as being “intransigent” for refusing to discuss issues of importance to the Fort Nelson First Nation. The judge added that the OGC had failed to properly consult with the First Nation prior to approving the pipeline in June of this year.
“When the Commission’s initial response is that it would not discuss concerns and was satisfied that there would be no material impact [on the caribou habitat], it cannot be said that Commission was willing to engage in consultation,” said the judge in her decision.
The pipeline was proposed to run through an area known as the “Fortune Core”, which contains crucial habitat for the endangered boreal caribou herd in the Maxhamish Range. In a release, the Fort Nelson First Nation said that it tried to discuss the development of a caribou management and recovery plan for the area before the project was approved, but that the OGC refused to engage in a discussion.
“If our concerns with appropriate caribou management had been taken seriously by the OGC and by the pipeline company, Rockyview Resources, this Project may well have proceeded,” said Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Harrison Dickie. “It is gratifying to have the court state that we were the ones acting reasonably in the process. The OGC failed to talk to us. We always try to approach these consultation processes rationally and engage in a meaningful way with both government and industry but in this case we ran into a brick wall. I hope that the OGC has learned a lesson from this, that the way forward is to have an open dialogue rather than being inflexible and trying to force its agenda at the expense of legitimate First Nation concerns.”
Rockyview Resources Ltd. will have to put construction on the 37-kilometre pipeline, which was set to have begun in the coming days or weeks, on hold as the permits authorizing its construction have been voided.