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Coastal GasLink failed to fix nearly 2 dozen environmental violations along pipeline route, B.C. officials say

Officials have flagged numerous, ongoing environmental violations by Coastal GasLink that could harm sensitive waterways along the pipeline’s route through northern B.C.

Inspectors with B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) said Coastal GasLink failed to comply with orders in 2020 to fix nearly two dozen sediment and erosion problems on watercourses and wetlands. 

The pipeline project has been slapped with two enforcement orders to fix the problems, after failing to comply with conditions of the environmental permits that allow the pipeline to be built.

The November orders were signed by the EAO’s senior compliance and enforcement officer. They require the multibillion-dollar pipeline project to take measures to control erosion and stop sediment from entering sensitive waterways. 

According to Coastal GasLink, its 670-kilometre pipeline route crosses about 625 streams, creeks, rivers and lakes, including vital fish habitat.

Sediment has the potential to reduce the biological productivity of aquatic systems and suffocate fish eggs.

coastal gaslink failed to fix nearly 2 dozen environmental violations along pipeline route b c officials say
Water from a pipeline right-of-way flows around a flume along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in this photo from an EAO inspection report. (B.C. Environmental Assessment Office)

In a written statement to CBC News, Coastal GasLink said it took “immediate action to remedy the EAO reports’ findings of non-compliance.”

Spokesperson Natasha Westover said Coastal GasLink respects the EAO’s findings, but that they represent “a snapshot at the time of the inspection.”

“Erosion and sediment control is dynamic and changes constantly. We adapt along the way and are constantly evaluating,” she said. 

The EAO posted the non-compliance orders publicly just days before the RCMP arrested 30 Wet’suwet’en members and supporters blockading a remote Coastal GasLink work camp that housed more than 500 pipeline workers.

coastal gaslink failed to fix nearly 2 dozen environmental violations along pipeline route b c officials say 1
Wet’suwet’en members and supporters attempt to evict Coastal GasLink from Indigenous traditional territories along the pipeline route in this photo from November 2021. (Layla Staats)

The people at the blockades, who call themselves land defenders, said they were blocking Coastal GasLink from drilling under the Wedzin Kwa, or Morice River.

The Coastal GasLink infractions covered by the enforcement order include the Clore River watershed on Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, said Mike Ridsdale, environmental assessment co-ordinator with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en.

“CGL is getting a lot of non-compliance reports written up. When is enough?” Ridsdale said.

“These violations are amended by writing a simple report stating that the error has been rectified. Unfortunately, many times the damage is done.”

Speaking in the B.C. Legislature late last month, B.C. Green Party Leader and MLA Sonia Furstenau said that “Coastal GasLink’s failures to comply with environmental requirements have resulted in damaged habitat, eroded waterways and contamination of watersheds with pollutants.” 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy says Coastal GasLink has provided responses to the inspection’s findings, and the EAO will be verifying the company’s compliance with its orders. 

The $6.6-billion pipeline, owned by TC Energy, is designed to carry natural gas obtained by fracking in northeastern B.C. to a $40-billion LNG terminal on the province’s north coast for export to Asia. The Trudeau government has called it the largest private-sector investment in Canadian history. 

Coastal GasLink has signed deals with 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, including from Wet’suwet’en territory, but has not won approval of the majority of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

The pipeline has faced sustained opposition from the hereditary chiefs and their supporters over who controls access to Indigenous traditional territories. 

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