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Indians Say No to $260,000 Each to Approve a Gas Pipeline

Indians Say No to $260,000 Each to Approve a Gas Pipeline

Author: Reilly Capps/Friday, May 15, 2015/Categories: environment

In the discussion about the Keystone pipeline, money talks. Will it bring jobs and revenue? Will that be worth the costs to the environment?

Well, there's one story that suggests money isn't the only motivating force. This is the case of the Lax Kw'alaams Indians. Money couldn't buy these Indians. At least, not yet. 

An energy company from Malaysia wants to build a pipeline carrying gas from the interior of British Columbia to the Pacific Coast, a place called Flora Bank. The land is the ancestral home of the Lax Kw’alaams Indians. Indians have -- historically and generally speaking -- not been able to control the natural resources of their homelands. But the Indians are asserting their power to approve any project. And the companies are reckoning with them. The Malaysian company, Petronas, offered the tribe a package worth about $1 billion if they would approve it. Benefits included  land and jobs and ... cash. Piles of it. Streams of it. The company would pay between about $12 million and about $40 million a year for 40 yeas. That's about $1 billion. The tribe is small. Per tribesmember, the money equals about $260,000 each. That's not a small number. 

And yet the tribe rejected the offer. They claimed that they stand united. And they believe there's a lesson there.From their statement

Hopefully, the public will recognize that unanimous consensus in communities (and where unanimity is the exception) against a project where those communities are offered in excess of a billion dollars, sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue: this is environmental and cultural. 

The decision has received approval from environmental groups. The World Wildlife Fund hailed it as "standing up for nature," 

The battle isn't over, however. This was just one round. But the Lax Kw'alaams Indians have said: not here, not now, not for all the money you can throw at us. 

Lax Kw’alaams is open to business," the tribe said, "to development, and to [natural gas]. It is not open to development proximate to Flora Bank."

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