VICTORIA, B.C. – The British Columbia government says it will inspect the site of a planned natural gas pipeline southwest of Houston following allegations that the company building the project is violating its permits.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and supporters have alleged that Coastal GasLink is engaging in construction activity without an archaeological impact assessment and also destroyed traplines and tents unnecessarily.
The Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources says in a statement that joint site inspection will be conducted by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission next week.
“We anticipate that it will take some time subsequently to determine whether any non-compliances are evident and, if so, the appropriate enforcement action,” the ministry said.
The RCMP also said it has received complaints from both the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink regarding traplines and the removal of personal property items.
“We are following up on all complaints and continue to facilitate ongoing and direct dialogue between all parties regarding various issues,” the RCMP said.
Coastal GasLink is working to build a natural gas pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG’s export facility on the coast as part of a $40-billion project.
Members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation issued a statement Monday saying the company “wilfully, illegally, and violently destroyed” its property this weekend, while the company said its actions have been permitted and lawful.
Jen Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en clan within the nation, said Coastal GasLink bulldozed three tents constructed with timber and canvas in an area along a logging road not included in the company’s plans.
“CGL workers just tore down all our stuff, threw them in (shipping containers) and said we had until the end of the day to pick them up or they would be thrown in the dump,” she said.
The tents were constructed when members erected a barrier at the same location, where RCMP enforced a court injunction on Jan. 7 and arrested 14 people in a move that sparked protests across Canada and internationally.
Wickham said members of the First Nation told RCMP they wanted the tents to remain to host cultural workshops.
Following the enforcement of the court injunction, a road was plowed around the tents allowing free movement of vehicles.
Coastal GasLink said in a statement that all work it’s doing is “approved and permitted and in full compliance” with its environmental assessment certificate issued by the province and the company has met all required pre-construction conditions.
“These areas are active work zones that are lawful and permitted. Any obstruction impeding our crews from safely accessing these work zones is in contravention of a court order,” Coastal GasLink said.
On Friday, Coastal GasLink said it stopped work in an area closer to its planned work site because traplines had been placed inside construction boundaries and people were entering the site, raising safety concerns.
Jason Slade, a supporter with the nearby Unist’ot’en camp run by Wet’suwet’en members, said Monday that work only halted temporarily and the traplines had been destroyed. He said excavation had begun at the site of a planned “man camp.”
The Unist’ot’en allege the actions violate the Wildlife Act by interfering with lawful trapping, as well as an agreement that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs had reached with RCMP allowing the company access to the area and ensuring traditional practices like trapping could continue.
The clan also alleges it is violating its permits with the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and Environmental Assessment Office by beginning construction work before an archaeological impact assessment has been complete.
In a letter to the commission on Friday, Chief Knedebeas of the Unist’ot’en Clan points to an affidavit filed by a company official in November as part of its court injunction application, saying the assessment is scheduled for May.
Knedebeas asks in the letter that a stop-work order be issued immediately while the allegations are investigated.