First Nation's negotiations with Enbridge collapse over 2018 northern B.C. gas pipeline explosion

·2 min read
Lheidli T'enneh Lawyer Malcolm Macpherson, and Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney, speak to reporters at a press conference on March 25, 2011 (Nicole Oud / CBC - image credit)
Lheidli T'enneh Lawyer Malcolm Macpherson, and Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney, speak to reporters at a press conference on March 25, 2011 (Nicole Oud / CBC - image credit)

Talks between the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and Enbridge, over an October 2018 northern B.C. pipeline explosion, have collapsed.

Lheidli T'enneh Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney says the First Nation's civil lawsuit against Enbridge, filed in Prince George Supreme Court in February 2019, will now proceed.

"The Enbridge brand has become synonymous with danger and mishap in our community," he said. "Enbridge says it is committed to safety and world-class standards, but we learned post-explosion and during the negotiations that these are empty promises."

The lawsuit seeks damages related to the pipeline rupture. The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation (LTFN) is also seeking an injunction ordering Enbridge to dismantle and remove approximately 140 kilometres of pipeline from Indigenous territory.

It says negotiations ended at Enbridge's request.

In a statement, Enbridge claimed the LTFN walked away and rejected offers of an impartial mediator.

"We have made several generous offers to the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation ... over the course of many months of negotiations," Enbridge stated. "However, the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation is looking for a settlement from Enbridge on matters beyond the incident itself and that aren't in our control or involve other parties."

In a statement of claim filed in court, Enbridge argued the entire lawsuit lacks merit.

A large fireball rising into the sky from Shelley, B.C. a small community about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George, in October 2018.
A large fireball rising into the sky from Shelley, B.C. a small community about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George, in October 2018.(@Dhruv7491/Twitter)

In October 2019, a 36-inch (92-centimetre) diameter gas pipeline burst in the community of Shelley, B.C., sending a fireball into the air that could be seen from Prince George 15 kilometres to the southwest. Approximately 100 Lheidli T'enneh residents in the community fled their homes as a precaution after the explosion.

No injures were reported.

But the Lheidli T'enneh say residents remain traumatized by the incident.

The Enbridge pipeline supplies 60 per cent of the natural gas consumed in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. The explosion created significant natural gas supply disruptions.

The Transportation Safety Board ruled the explosion was caused by stress cracks in the pipe, and found the company had improperly delayed a scheduled hazard management inspection that may have detected issues, and prevented the fiery blast from happening.

The Canada Energy Regulator handed Enbridge a $40,000 fine for failing to properly monitor the line.