First Nations from across BC are taking action to defend their territories from energy exploration and drilling. It’s no surprise that BC government and oil and gas officials are upset.
Increasing energy revenues is essential to this government’s economic and political future. Indigenous resistance to oil and gas exploration is the BC government’s worst nightmare. Nothing else could have as large an impact on the energy revenues they are counting on to balance the budget and pave the way for the upcoming election campaign.
This alone means that government can’t take this growing opposition from First Nations lying down. Collaborative First Nation resistance to energy projects will seriously impede the energy revenue and windfall profits that both the BC government and fossil fuel industry have been salivating over.
But resistance to the government’s “drill now, talk later” approach continues to grow:
- The Bonapart and Pavilion (Ts’Kw’aylaxw) bands have broken off talks with the Ministry of Energy and Mines and re-asserted that coal-bed methane development will not go ahead in their territory.
- Saulteau and West Moberly nations have begun blocking Vintage Petroleum’s attempts to build an access road and develop a well site into the West Moberly Tract – an important cultural and wilderness area.
- The Xaxl’ip band also reject CBM development in hat Creek and have refused to engage with ministry officials in discussions.
- Citing un-addressed concerns about impacts to water, habitat, wildlife and their culture, West Moberly leaders also issued formal written notice warning “all parties” – including fossil fuel companies interested in developing coal-bed methane in the Moberly-Peace tract .
West Moberly’s public notice demands that oil and gas companies take notice of the band’s claims, including treaty and aboriginal rights to the band’s reserve and to the far larger constitutionally-protected Treaty 8 lands that surround it.
An unnamed fossil fuel industry executive was uncharacteristically frank in his dismissal of West Moberly’s concerns, saying he was “not happy about the false information that First Nations are putting out.”
Yet, if concerns about impacts to water, wildlife and health are false, why are the BC government and energy corporations refusing to require the baseline studies and cumulative impact assessments that would prove them right?
Perhaps they are worried that the public will realize they are the ones making the false claims.