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‘Elegant’ low-carbon energy projects planned by northern B.C. First Nation: Eby

VICTORIA — A northern British Columbia First Nation has signed an agreement with the province to work together on what Premier David Eby calls an “elegant” proposal for a clean energy hub on band territory north of Prince George.

McLeod Lake Indian Band Chief Harley Chingee says signing a memorandum of understanding for the Tse’khene energy transition hub gives him certainty to move forward “in a good way” on the project that relies on existing pipelines in the region, including Coastal GasLink. 

The pact, also signed with the BC Energy Regulator, formerly the BC Oil and Gas Commission, sets up a framework to create low-carbon energy through several Indigenous owned and operated projects, starting with a hydrogen production facility.

A second project would develop a so-called straddle plant capable of skimming high-value liquids such as ethylene from natural gas in the four pipelines already running across McLeod Lake traditional lands.

Collectively, the projects are worth approximately $7 billion and could create as many as 2,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent, full-time jobs.

Employment would be open to all B.C. residents, not just members of the McLeod Lake band, Chingee said.

He estimated construction could begin within 16 to 24 months and a statement from the province said it is working with the band and the BC Energy Regulator on a detailed plan to follow the memorandum and guide future work.

The band-driven project would “probably be a first,” said Chingee, calling it a “newer model of doing business in the equity world,” because it does not stem from an Impact Benefit Agreement, which is a contract between a non-Indigenous developer and affected First Nations.

“We’re going to include all British Columbians, not just McLeod Lake Indian Band, but opportunities for all British Columbians, be they contractors, be they employees, and split the big, special stuff that we need for putting this giant plan together,” Chingee said during the news conference in Victoria announcing the MOU.

Eby said the straddle plant, in particular, would help B.C. and its Indigenous partners extract “every bit of value” from natural gas exports.

It’s “part of the beauty of the proposal,” the premier said at the Wednesday event.

“Without any additional emissions and potentially with a slight reduction in overall emissions, we are able to extract together additional value for British Columbians, the McLeod Lake Indian Band, (and) the local community in terms of jobs.”

“This is quite an elegant proposal that will make a huge difference for the community,” said Eby.

“I am honoured to be standing here with the chief who put this together.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press