New Democrats celebrate decision to end coalbed methane drilling in the Sacred Headwaters

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VICTORIA — New Democrats are commending the Tahltan Nation, northwest communities, First Nations, organizations and individuals for coming together to save the Sacred Headwaters in light of news the area will now be permanently off limits to coalbed methane drilling.

“Part of what makes the northwest unique is the way that people who come from all different walks of life come together to protect the water and the land,” said Doug Donaldson, New Democrat MLA for Stikine. “We’ve seen it with Enbridge and with the Sacred Headwaters. People in the northwest understand the importance of resource industries, but they also understand that it’s impossible to put a price tag on a clean environment.”

In 2004, Shell Canada (now Royal Dutch Shell) was awarded a 400,000 hectare tenure to develop coalbed methane in the Sacred Headwaters in northwest British Columbia. Due to massive opposition throughout the region and across B.C. and Canada, the B.C. government imposed a four-year moratorium on development that was slated to end Tuesday.

Donaldson said New Democrats have been working to protect the Sacred Headwaters for many years, and noted that in addition to strong opposition from the Tahltan, communities across the region, including Terrace, Kitimat, Smithers and Prince Rupert opposed coalbed methane extraction in the Sacred Headwaters.

“I want to send a heartfelt congratulations to all the people that have fought for this place since 2004. It was a long campaign that at times felt like an impossible hurdle,” said Donaldson. “I visited the blockade back when I was a councillor for the Village of Hazelton, and I talked to the Tahltan people who were risking everything to stop this project. I am just so pleased that they finally have a decision and a reason to celebrate.”

New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming said it was unfortunate that the Liberal government decided to issue tenure first, and consult First Nations and communities later.

“What's happened with the Sacred Headwaters is a lesson for us all,” said Fleming. “For government, the lesson is to work with all affected First Nations and local communities to ensure development respects their values before giving out licenses and tenures. For the Tahltan people and others in the northwest, the lesson is that great things are possible when people bridge their differences and work towards a common goal.”

Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats support sustainable economic development in B.C. that includes community consultation, respect for First Nations and a strong environmental assessment process.