Trudeau government approves Pacific NorthWest LNG project
Published Tuesday, September 27, 2016 6:15PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 28, 2016 9:27AM EDT
The Liberal government has approved the $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project in northern British Columbia, which would process liquefied gas in a facility near the port of Prince Rupert for export to markets in Asia.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna said at the announcement in Richmond, B.C., that the project was subject to “a rigorous environmental assessment” that included “interim guidelines” announced in January.
“The only way to get resources to market in the twenty-first century is if it can be done sustainably and responsibly,” she said.
McKenna said there are 190 legally-binding conditions for the project, which are “based on the best available science and on indigenous traditional knowledge.”
The conditions include “for the first time ever, a maximum cap on greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Indigenous communities near the project will participate with Canada and the province in environmental monitoring, a new innovative approach and consistent with the government’s reconciliation agenda,” McKenna went on.
McKenna added that federal scientists have determined “there will not be a significant impact on the salmon” -- a concern raised by some First Nations people.
“Indigenous peoples were meaningfully consulted and, where appropriate, impacts on their rights and interests were accommodated,” according to McKenna.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has championed the 900-kilomtre pipeline and export terminal project led by Malaysia’s state-owned firm Petronas.
Clark thanked the federal cabinet for approving a project that she said will benefit “all Canadians” by creating thousands of jobs “for families, for working people and, importantly, for First Nations people.”
Clark acknowledged concerns about the projects’ carbon emissions, but said that the province is proposing to reduce emissions by using electricity in extraction.
“British Columbia is proud to be the climate leader in North America,” she said. “We have the first, the highest and the most comprehensive carbon tax on pollution on the continent and we are very encouraged to have a federal partner.”
Clark also acknowledged that the project might not go ahead, if natural gas prices remain low.
“I don’t know when the market will improve enough for these projects to go ahead,” she said. However, according to Clark, countries like China, Japan and India “are really hungry for a clean alternative to coal.”
A spokesperson for Pacific NorthWest LNG called the decision a “significant milestone for Pacific NorthWest LNG and our shareholders.”
“Pacific NorthWest LNG would like to thank area First Nations, stakeholders, local residents and all others involved in the regulatory process for their constructive participation in the science-based environmental assessment,” the company’s statement went on.
“Moving forward, Pacific NorthWest LNG and our shareholders will conduct a total project review over the coming months prior to announcing next steps for the project."
Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr called the announcement an “exciting day” for Canada, noting “substantial benefits” including “up to 330 direct long-term jobs, 300 local spinoff jobs and 4,500 construction jobs.”
Carr said the project will add “nearly $2.4 billion per year to our nation’s GDP” as well as tax revenue that “could help pay for schools and roads and social projects that enrich our lives.”
Carr said “natural gas could displace fuels that emit higher levels of GHGs.”
However Richard Dixon, a regulatory expert from the University of Alberta, told CTV News Channel earlier that the emissions for the project will be high “given the amount of energy they use to liquefy natural gas,” but on the other hand, it’s a cleaner alternative to coal.
He also pointed out that First Nations have mixed views on the proposal. Although most First Nations along the pipeline route have signed on, the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation three times rejected a deal that would have paid them $1.15-billion over 40 years to build the shipping facility on its traditional territory.
Dixon also pointed out that although there are a “lot of jobs” involved, they would be mainly during construction. “Once you get these projects up and going, you don’t tend to have as many people,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday in the House of Commons, interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose pushed the prime minister to approve resource pipeline projects.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, meanwhile, questioned his commitment to the environment.
“The prime minister said, and I quote, ‘the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a crude oil pipeline’,” Mulcair said during daily question period. “British Columbians give that a big high five.”
“What he seems unwilling to do is say whether he thinks the Great Bear Rainforest is a place for a natural gas pipeline,” Mulcair added.
Prime Minister Trudeau vowed to protect the environment and create prosperity.
“It’s no longer a question of making a choice on one side or the other,” the prime minister said. “And that’s why we’re moving forward in a responsible to analyzing various projects and we’re going to make decisions in the interest of all Canadians.”
A recent survey of more than 3,500 people conducted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada found that 56 per cent of Canadians agree that “Canada should sell natural gas to Asia” while 28 per cent disagree and 15 per cent don’t know.