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Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs urge banks to snub TC Energy bonds

Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs urge banks to snub TC Energy bonds

CALGARY – An Indigenous group that opposed the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline is urging banks and investors against financing a proposed second phase of the project.

Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation of B.C. have written an open letter to Canada’s biggest banks and investors, urging them to make a public commitment not to buy any new bonds issued by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp., the company behind Coastal GasLink.

“We are aware that (Coastal GasLink) is pursuing Phase 2 of the project alongside LNG Canada, seeking to build additional compressor stations as part of a plan to increase capacity of the pipeline,” states the letter sent to 12 major banks and 49 institutional investors and pension funds.

“Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs oppose and do not give consent to build these compressor stations and will pursue avenues to challenge these permits and construction.”

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was designed to transport natural gas from Western Canada to the Shell-led LNG Canada export facility currently nearing completion in Kitimat, B.C., was completed last fall.

In the winter of 2020, protesters blockaded freight and passenger rail services across Canada to show solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, whose traditional territory is crossed by Coastal GasLink and who opposed the project then under construction.

TC Energy has proposed a potential Phase 2 of the project, which could see the construction of six additional compressor stations in order to double the transport capacity of Coastal GasLink without requiring additional pipeline. However, it has not yet made a final investment decision.

The company confirmed Tuesday it is engaged in discussions to refinance a portion of its existing construction loan through private bond sales, though a spokesperson declined to disclose the size of the bond offering. The company said the proceeding is part of the “normal course” of post-construction project financing.

“We believe the strong interest in this bond deal speaks to the nation-building importance of this project,” a TC Energy spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

While the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who are not elected, have been staunch opponents of Coastal GasLink, all 20 of the elected Indigenous groups along the 670-km pipeline route supported the project. The majority signed agreements with TC Energy to acquire a 10 per cent equity stake in the pipeline.

Karen Ogen, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance and a former elected chief councillor of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, wrote in an op-ed published Monday in the Toronto Star that the development of a liquefied natural gas industry is an opportunity for Indigenous people to achieve economic independence.

“When activists call for the end of investments in Canadian LNG, these are the opportunities they are taking away from our communities,” Ogen wrote.

But the hereditary chiefs say two of the proposed compressor stations that would be a part of Coastal GasLink’s Phase 2 would be located on their traditional territory. They said they have concerns about the proximity to important cultural sites, additional years of construction traffic and the long-term climate impact of expanding Canada’s LNG footprint.

They said they are calling on banks and investors to publicly announce a commitment to deny new debt financing to TC Energy, and to fully divest from the Coastal GasLink pipeline. 


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