Activists Protest Shell’s Resistance to Withdraw from BC’s Sacred Headwaters

Moratorium on gas drilling in Sacred Headwaters to expire in seven months, Shell’s plans ship gas to Asian markets raises concern
Tuesday May 22, 2012

PRESS RELEASE CONTACT: Karen Tam Wu, ForestEthics Advocacy, 778-846-5647

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS – At Shell’s annual shareholder meeting today, the company made clear that it has no plans to withdraw its operations to drill for gas in BC’s Sacred Headwaters. With the company’s announcement of a liquefied natural gas plant on BC’s north coast, gas from the Sacred Headwaters could be headed for Asia.  Potesters rallied to expose the environmental threats of extracting gas from the Sacred Headwaters, one of the most pristine and stunning regions of British Columbia.

Shell’s original plans to develop coalbed methane in the Sacred Headwaters were put on hold by the BC government imposing a four-year moratorium on development in the Sacred Headwaters. The moratorium is set to expire at the end of 2012.

Last week, Shell announced its partnership with Asian companies to build Canada’s largest liquefied natural gas plant off BC’s north pacific coast to supply Asia with gas from Shell’s operations in B.C.  Large tankers carrying the compressed gas will travel through the Great Bear Rainforest to Asia, travelling the same treacherous route tankers carrying crude and condensate from Enbridge’s proposed pipeline.

“There is nothing natural about natural gas from the Sacred Headwaters,” says Karen Tam Wu of ForestEthics Advocacy. “Shell’s bad gas puts our greatest salmon rivers at risk. The company’s plans to ship the gas through the Great Bear Rainforest to Asia means that BC will bear all the risks and costs with no benefit.”

Governments from the village of Hazelton to First Nations Band Councils to the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine - have passed resolutions opposing the development of coalbed methane. The Union of BC Municipalities and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs passed similar resolutions.

“While Shell is shaking hands with Big Oil from Asia and celebrating the announcement of their plans, residents in BC are still shaking their heads and fists over Shell’s plans to frack for gas in salmon habitat,” said Shannon McPhail of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “The controversy over the Sacred Headwaters has left Shell with a tarnished reputation in the northwest.”

During Shell’s annual gathering of shareholders, Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, conceded the company has no plans to leave the Sacred Headwaters by the end of the year. Shell did not deny that gas from the Sacred Headwaters would not be shipped from the new port in Kitimat. Activists delivered copies of a mocked up newspaper to shareholders at the meeting, with the headline reading “Shell becomes the first company to frack in salmon habitat.”

Fracking, a highly controversial and potentially environmentally-devastating practice of squeezing gas out of rocks using a cocktail of chemicals that is an ‘industry secret’, has never been done in salmon habitat, such as the Sacred Headwaters.

The Sacred Headwaters were named BC’s Most Endangered Rivers for the past three years, citing Shell’s proposal as the greatest threat. The Sacred Headwaters are the birthplace of the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine Rivers, some of the wildest salmon rivers remaining in North America. Until recently, it seemed that Shell might be ready to walk away from the Sacred Headwaters, but their announcement last week has ignited new concern – and action.

Founded in April 2012, ForestEthics Advocacy is a non-profit society devoted to public engagement, outreach and environmental advocacy - including political advocacy. We secure large-scale protection of endangered forests and wild places and transform environmentally destructive resource-extraction industries. For more information, visit


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