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Clark's LNG strategy will hurt First Nations jobs: critics

Premier Christy Clark's liquefied natural gas strategy could hurt First Nations employment, aboriginal observers argue in today's Tyee cover story.

When her Liberal government first unveiled the strategy in February 2012, it promised that LNG plants would be the "world's first" to be powered by clean energy.

Proposed LNG plants on B.C.'s north coast could consume as much electricity as 1.6 million households. Supplying them with low carbon power would require a massive scale-up of the province's clean energy industry.

First Nations were poised to benefit hugely, given that about 125 of them are helping develop run-of-river, bio-energy, wind, solar and other clean energy projects on their traditional territories.

But Clark's government has slowly scaled back her original promise "that LNG plants would be powered by clean energy," said Judith Sayers, a University of Victoria professor and former Hupacasath First Nation chief. Now, she added, "there's a lot of uncertainty."

First the Liberals changed B.C.'s Clean Energy Act so that if natural gas, a climate harming fossil fuel, was burned to power LNG facilities, it too would be considered "clean."

This means that any truly renewable energy produced by First Nations would have to compete directly with natural gas, a cheap and widely available energy source.

"If you allow [natural gas] to be labeled a quote unquote, 'clean energy,'" Mark Starlund, elected chief of the Gitanyow First Nation, told The Tyee in an interview, "does that stop true clean energy projects from going forward?"

Just last month, BC Hydro announced it will be scaling back a program that has helped support green aboriginal jobs. "This is not going to help First Nations," Sayers said.

[Editor's note: To read Geoff Dembicki's full Tyee report, click here.]

Geoff Dembicki is covering the BC 2013 election for The Tyee with a focus on energy issues.

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