Moments before Premier Rachel Notley hit centre stage at the Global Petroleum Show on Wednesday, an important speech was made before a small crowd inside the BMO Centre.

But those in attendance heard a vital message for the entire Canadian energy sector.

In just 15 minutes, the CEO of the Indian Resource Council laid out the immense challenges — but promising new opportunities — for provincial and federal governments on energy development and the Trans Mountain pipeline.

As Ottawa creates a plan to sell its newly acquired pipeline back to the private sector, it needs to sit down with First Nations interested in buying an ownership stake in the venture.

If governments are truly committed to providing economic opportunities within the energy industry to Indigenous communities, while broadening support for the contentious development, this would present a historic moment.

But they have to pick up the phone.

“We’ve heard time and time again that Indigenous people must receive direct benefit from the energy and resource development, including equity participation,” said Stephen Buffalo, whose group represents about 150 First Nations that produce petroleum or have pipelines on their land.

“The success of pipelines and other energy infrastructure development in this country is dependent on the extent of our direct involvement.”

The timing of his message is critical.

Ottawa is expected to complete its $4.5-billion acquisition of the Trans Mountain project from Kinder Morgan in August. Finance Minister Bill Morneau has committed to selling the project to private players, although it’s unclear when that will occur.

The commercial viability of the venture is underpinned by long-term shipping commitments; the value should only increase once the line is built and the risk of delay is removed.

However, Trans Mountain is fiercely opposed by the British Columbia government, some municipal leaders and environmentalists, as well as some First Nations in the province.

The existing pipeline, which ships oil from Edmonton to Burnaby, crosses First Nations in B.C., as well as Treaty 6 and 8 territory in Alberta.

To date, 43 mutual-benefit agreements have been signed with Indigenous groups, sharing more than $400 million with these communities.

But ownership is different, and everyone knows it.

An equity stake — potentially done in partnership with pension funds or pipeline operators — would represent a significant step forward, providing Indigenous communities with a direct say in the development.

Buffalo pointed out it’s no coincidence Indigenous communities that strongly back pipelines are ones that will benefit from it.

Tying those financial benefits to the project’s …read more

Source:: Calgaryherald.com

      

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Varcoe: First Nations press for chance to buy stake in Trans Mountain pipeline

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