Thursday, June 04, 2015

NW Indians Resist Big Energy

High Country News tells US that a British Columbia tribe turn downed $260,000 for each member offerred by a Malaysian firm wanting to build a natural gas export terminal on ancestral lands. Lax Kw'alaam First Nation said no to a $1.15 billion package after the community voted unanimously against the terminal because of the risk it posed to local salmon habitat. Understandably the town's mayor said he hoped the message sent was unequivocal: no amount of money can replace a nation's culture and respect for other creatures living in the same habitat. Message received and Green Kudos to the Lax Kw'alaam!
Dust on the water, credit: Columbia Riverkeeper

South of the border, tribes are facing a similar threat to their way of life and natural inheritance from oil and gas companies exploiting the energy boom. Opposition is rising in the Pacific Northwest against the transportation of fossil fuels across native lands. Instead of gaining consent, companies are encountering a "choke point" in their expansion plans to export energy to Asia via the west coast. For the last three years, the Lummi Nation has fought the proposed Pacific Gateway Coal Terminal near Bellingham, Washington. The Lummi say the terminal would interfere with their fishing rights, and symbolicly burned a $1 million check to indicate that no amount of money would get them to back the project. The 1974 Boldt decision gives tribes the legal right to co-manage natural resources and an equal share in salmon and steelhead fisheries with the state. The decision determined that treaties signed with the US government in the 1850s guaranteed tribal members have access to their traditional fishing grounds. Today those areas include most of the locations proposed for fuel terminals.

In Oregon, the Yakama Tribe came out against a coal export facility, citing thier fishing rights. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation turned down $800,000 in opposition to the project. Together with the Warm Springs and Nex Perce tribes they convinced the Oregon state government to disapprove the proposed coal terminal. Two years ago, 57 nations that are part of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians decided to oppose all proposals for the transport and export of fossil fuels. Proposed coal export terminals would bring 29 coal trains through the region each day. Opposition among Indian tribes is costing energy businesses significant amounts of money in delayed production and other costs. That's a sensitive issue even for multinational energy corporations with huge budgets.