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Latest Indigenous bid for Trans Mountain backed by pipeline company

Pembina Pipeline partners on oil expansion, northwest B.C. LNG
A tunnel boring machine drills to accommodate pipelines through Burnaby Mountain to connect to the expanded Westridge Marine Terminal, May 2021. The twinning project is a quarter completed, with active construction in Alberta and across B.C. (Trans Mountain photo)

Indigenous groups bidding for the Trans Mountain oil and fuel pipeline are setting their sights on full ownership as the federally-owned twinning project gets closer to completion.

Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp. announced its entry in June, in a partnership with the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group called Chinook Pathways. Founded by Indigenous leaders in Alberta and B.C., the group says the 50-50 partnership with an established pipeline operator offers a chance for Indigenous communities on the pipeline route to determine its benefits and manage environmental impacts.

“What we want here is our jurisdiction back so that we can provide for our people as we have done for 10,000 years,” said Chief Michael LeBourdais of the Whispering Pines-Clinton Indian Band, one of the communities that has had the pipeline through its territory since 1954. LeBourdais is vice president and executive director of Western Indigenous Pipeline Group.

A rival bid came in 2019 from Project Reconciliation, one of several responding to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invitation for Indigenous ownership stakes when Ottawa sells the project after taking it over in the face of anti-pipeline protests and turmoil in the world oil market. Shane Gottfriedson, former chief of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation at Kamloops and a director of Project Reconciliation, said at the time the intention is to offer all Indigenous groups in Western Canada a share of majority ownership.

Project Reconciliation’s objective is now a 75 per cent stake, moving to full ownership, newly appointed chair Robert Morin told Bloomberg News in June.

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Pembina’s announcement of Chinook Pathways came soon after it announced a partnership with the Haisla Nation at Kitimat in the development of Cedar LNG, a floating platform liquefied natural gas loading facility near the larger LNG Canada project and Coastal Gaslink pipeline from northeast B.C. gas fields.

“We could not be prouder of our partnerships with both the Haisla Nation and the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group,” Pembina CEO Mick Dilger said in an update to shareholders June 14. “Pembina believes that the future of Canada’s energy sector is inextricably linked to meaningful partnerships and commercial relationships with Indigenous communities. We see an important role for our company to play in advancing Indigenous economic reconciliation in Canada.”

Chinook Pathways Inc. was incorporated in Calgary in November 2020, Alberta corporate records show.

Trans Mountain has begun boring a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain to hold three supply pipes that will fill tankers at the expanded Westridge Terminal. It’s a key step in completing the twinning of the pipeline that has brought crude oil and refined fuels from the Edmonton area to the B.C. coast and Washington State refineries since the 1950s.

Purchased by the Trudeau government for $4.8 billion in 2018, Trans Mountain has completed about a quarter of its expansion project, with work continuing on the marine terminal and tank farm expansion at both ends as well as twinning sections through the B.C. Interior, the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland and Puget Sound in Washington State.


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