Three area First Nations are telling Kinder Morgan they will not deal with the energy company even as it plans to consult with them over a proposed $5-billion twinning of Trans Mountain pipeline.
Whispering Pines, Coldwater and Lower Nicola Indian bands issued a joint statement Tuesday, expressing frustration over past dealings with the company. They said Kinder Morgan Canada does not have a permit to operate the oil pipeline on their reserves and expressed frustration over failed efforts to meet with company president Ian Anderson.
"They want to go through our territory and our reserves without rectifying existing wrongs," said Chief Michael LeBourdais of Whispering Pines north of Kamloops. "They want to consult about the future and ignore the past without considering the impact that a pipeline that size will have on our lives."
A Kinder Morgan spokesman said the company intends to do everything it can to consult with First Nations along the route.
"We value these relationships with First Nations whose territory we're on," said Andrew Galarnyk. "We're in discussions with these communities and have been for some time. We recognize there are some issues we need to work together on."
LeBourdais said they have attempted to meet with Anderson for the past three weeks, but haven't had a response.
His band has plans to develop 40 new homes on the reserve in tandem with the First Nations Property Ownership Act, forthcoming legislation that will allow band members and non-band members to own property on reserve. A 20-metre-wide right of way and a 65-metre safety zone could limit that development potential by as much as half, he said.
"Why would we agree to that if it takes that much land away from people who want to own homes?"
"If they want to go through our territory they will have to deal with our reserves and our band members first," said Victor York, chief of the Lower Nicola Band near Merritt. The company must first resolve outstanding issues, "or who in this province is going to believe that Kinder Morgan Canada is a good corporate citizen worthy of regulatory approvals?"
Pipeline leaks have occurred in the past, said Chief Harold Aljam of Coldwater First Nation near Merritt.
"The 24-inch pipeline crossing our reserves has leaked in places, but they denied it even as they hauled away truckloads of oil-soaked soil in 2008." There was another, larger instance of seepage in 1969, LeBourdais said.
Galarnyk said the company never denied the Coldwater leak occurred and is confident the site was cleaned up.
"The pipeline traverses 11 reserves in B.C.," LeBourdais said. "Literally every one of our driveways goes over the pipeline. We probably drive over it 100 times a day, but Coldwater was told they can't drive over it. There's no consistency in communications with First Nations."
Tk'emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson said his band recently met with Anderson for a preliminary discussion about the process surrounding the project.
"We haven't taken a position whether or not we support it," Gottfriedson said. Aboriginal rights and title as well as environmental concerns were part of the exchange. "We will hold the company accountable for any environmental impacts."
LeBourdais said his frustration has grown to the point where he intends to have nothing further to do with Kinder Morgan.
"We're going to be progressive and start addressing this through the National Energy Board and our MPs," he said.
Kinder Morgan intends to begin consultations this summer.
"We're going to continue to extend the same offer to meet and engage with them," Galarnyk said. "It will be a very open and transparent process. We recognize there are a lot of questions people have and need answers for."
© Kamloops Daily News