Phyllis Seymour, an elderly woman from Lheidli T’enneh First Nation (LTFN), remembers hearing a loud explosion, seeing a fireball in the field from her shaking home, and running door-to-door to evacuate her community as ash fell like “black petals”.
The scene was caused by a gas pipeline explosion less than a mile from the nation’s reserve, and within its undisclosed territory, about 13 miles north of Prince George, BC, on October 9, 2018. The pipeline is owned by the fossil fuel giant based in Calgary, Enbridge, which refers to the explosion as the Shelley incident because of its proximity to that community.
“Everybody was yelling and yelling and was scared, but we didn’t know what to do,” Seymour. said at a press conference Tuesday.
“My granddaughter Emily (was) screaming and crying, I will never forget the expression in her eyes,” she said. “When he saw me leave and go back to the reservation to help the members, he kept yelling at me, ‘Grandma, come back, come back, let’s go,’ but I knew that I had to come back to help our elders (and) our membership (that) he had no vehicles to get out safely.
“My message to Enbridge is simple: we want that pipeline moved so our members can sleep better at night knowing they will be safe,” he said, calling the explosion traumatic to the community.
On Tuesday, the LTFN sent letters to both British Columbia’s Minister of Natural Resources, Katrine Conroy, and Federal Minister of Crown-Indian Relations, Carolyn Bennett, asking the two Crown governments to support her request to have Enbridge’s T-South Pipeline outside its reserve territory.
“To this day, the giant fireball, the flying debris, the shaking of the buildings, and the remaining burned crater weigh heavily on the minds of many members. It has left them living in fear due to the proximity of their homes to the Enbridge Pipeline, ”the letter says.
As the third anniversary of the blast approaches, LTFN boss Dolleen Logan says she’s tired of Enbridge putting her on the back burner.
“They have patience, but I’ve finally lost mine … We want this to end,” he said.
“I strongly believe that it is time for Enbridge to embrace the reconciliation program and begin treating our nation with respect.”
As the third anniversary of a pipeline explosion approaches, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Chief Dolleen Logan says she is tired of Enbridge “putting her on the back burner” and wants the company to to retire. #cdnpoli
Enbridge says it values its relationship with LTFN and is committed to strengthening that relationship, but the company did not respond to questions about whether it would comply with the nation’s request to divert the pipeline out of its reserve.
“Following the Shelley incident, we conducted a comprehensive pipeline integrity program on our natural gas pipeline system in British Columbia to significantly improve pipeline safety,” the company said. National Observer of Canada.
“As always, we are pleased to meet with the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation or any government agency to discuss the safety of the pipeline system or any other matter, including the small pipe segments that run through their reserve.”
LTFN attorney Malcolm Macpherson said the nation is pursuing a strategy to try to force the British Columbia government to revoke Enbridge’s permits, citing public safety. It’s a strategy inspired by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who got the Enbridge permit that allowed the Line 5 pipeline to cross under the Strait of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
“Human life could have been lost on October 9, 2018, and indeed within two years after the explosion, a woman was murdered in the explosion of an Enbridge gas pipeline in Kentucky, “said Macpherson.
Macpherson said the nation just doesn’t trust Enbridge to operate the pipeline safely, saying: “It’s time for him to go, and soon.
“If Enbridge continues to act with impunity, the reality is that it risks further erosion of its brand and social license to operate in British Columbia,” he said.
The head of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, Rosanne Casimir, and Xatśūll Development Corporation (XDC) wrote letters of support for LTFN. The XDC is a limited partnership between Xatśūll First Nation and industry stakeholders, like Suncor, CIF Construction and others.
“The XDC has had similar concerns and frustrations dealing with Enbridge. The T-South line runs through the heart of the Xatśūll reserve land and traditional territory, ”wrote XDC CEO Howard Campbell.
“XDC is currently exploring legal options … regarding Enbridge’s apparent lack of interest in listening to First Nations concerns and actually following up on items that are important to First Nations organizations and their people,” added.
Conroy’s office confirmed it received the letter and said it was reviewing it, but called it a federally regulated pipeline.
Bennett did not return a request for comment before the deadline.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer