Controversial LNG export terminal moves forward in western Canada

The Premier of B.C. Christy Clark signs a memorandum of understanding with Pacific Northwest LNG. Photo credit: Province of British Columbia via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

A controversial project to establish a LNG export terminal on the coast of British Columbia (B.C.) in western Canada appears to have moved forward.

The B.C. Premier, Christy Clark, is very keen to make a start on the project has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysian energy giant Petronas (who will develop the project) that could lead to a development agreement and an eventual construction of the facilities.

But the project is highly controversial among many groups in the region, including the First Nations and the environmentalists. Earlier this month, First Nation members in Northern B.C. rejected a $1.5 billion deal from Pacific NorthWest LNG (owned by Petronas) that could have given the go-ahead to the project, as the terminal would be built in their territory on Lelu Island.

Indigenous groups say that their refusal is not just about the money. They say that they have not seen any robust environmental research confirming that environmental standards would be upheld. They want reassurances that the local salmon population, which is crucial to their livelihood, would be protected. However, they have said they are open to negotiations, and if their environmental concerns are addressed they would come to the negotiating table.

If going ahead, the project would also include a pipeline stretching 900 km and transporting fracked gas from Hudson’s Hope to the LNG terminal on Lelu Island. This has caused further protest as the overall opposition to the combined projects in B.C. grows. The pipeline would be constructed by Prince Rupert Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and will cause further controversy as it would increase BC`s fracking operations.

If the LNG terminal goes ahead it is estimated that another 40,000 fracking wells will be required. Those extra wells would quite likely be drilled in the two largest shale formations in Northeastern BC, Horn River Basin and Montney Shale. Fracking operations could expand at such a rate that it could rival the emissions from the tar sands. This would undoubtedly mean that emissions would start to increase in B.C. Due to B.C.’s carbon tax, emissions have actually been declining in recent years, though Premier Clark has now frozen the carbon tax until at least 2017.
Environmentalists say emissions will inevitably start to increase again. And the proposed LNG terminal will only add to that increase, reducing the region’s ability to continue to bring down emissions.

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