Pacific Northwest LNG is dead — what happens to court challenges now?

Discourse Media | Anya Zoledziwoski | August 1 2017

Last Tuesday, the chairman of the Pacific NorthWest LNG board, Anuar Taib, announced the cancellation of the PNW LNG development project. For those against the project, this news marks the end of a long battle. But for Richard Wright, a Gitxsan member involved in launching a court challenge against the project, the fight isn’t over yet.

Earlier this year, Charlie Wright, who considers himself the hereditary chief for the Gitxsan’s Luutkudziiwus wilp (house group), was among those who filed the court challenge. It’s against PNW LNG Limited, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada and the Attorney General of Canada. They argue that the government “breached its constitutional obligations to consult” and that the environmental risks of the project were too great. Since the project is no longer happening, they’re now working on their next move.

“[PNW LNG’s legal counsel is] asking us to voluntarily withdraw our litigation because they’re saying the project isn’t going ahead any longer,” says Richard Wright, who serves as the spokesperson for the Luutkudziiwus. “We are saying: ‘No, no, no. The process has been flawed all the way through and we are here to address the flaws and that whole process.’”

However, in an email to Discourse Media, a spokesperson for PNW LNG wrote: “The decision to withdraw is up to the applicants. One of PNW LNG’s major accomplishments was the degree of cooperation reached with all of the area First Nations. The company holds the relationships it built with the area First Nations in high esteem and valued their feedback and suggestions throughout the project’s development.”

It’s difficult to know exactly what will happen to the court challenge now that the project is defunct. Wright hopes to overturn the order of approval that the federal government originally granted PNW LNG.

“The terminal site and the pipeline are still approved and [PNW LNG] could change their mind on an investment decision, or they would be able to sell it. So we certainly want to close that door,” explains Wright. PNW LNG did not respond to Wright’s claim.

Government agencies did not respond to requests for comment.


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