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LNG Canada demonstrates that megaprojects are possible, but at what cost?

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 10/5/2018 7:43:00 AM

LNG Canada, along with the federal and British Columbia (B.C.) governments, have announced a $40-billion plan to test the proposition that a large-scale low-carbon fossil fuel development is possible in Canada. 

The partners in LNG Canada — Shell, PETRONAS, PetroChina, Mitsubishi Corporation and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) — have given the go-ahead to build the LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat, B.C. and the 670-km pipeline that will connect the terminal with the natural gas resources of northeastern B.C. 

“This decision showcases how industrial development can co-exist with environmental stewardship and Indigenous reconciliation,” boasted Andy Calitz, CEO of LNG Canada in a release. 

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the decision as “a vote of confidence in a country that recognizes the need to develop our energy in a way that takes the environment into account, and that works in meaningful partnership with Indigenous communities.” 

Unlike the troubled Trans Mountain Pipeline to the south, the Kitimat terminal and the pipeline, to be built by TransCanada Corporation and operated by Coastal GasLink, have widespread (though not yet unanimous) approval from First Nations along the proposed route. 

Crystal Smith, chief councillor of the Haisla Nation on whose traditional land the LNG terminal will sit, said in a statement that LNG Canada had “set the bar very high in terms of interaction” when it comes to working with the Haisla people to protect the environment. 

LNG Canada maintains that its export facility will achieve the lowest carbon intensity of any large-scale LNG facility in the world, taking advantage of plentiful hydropower from BC Hydro and efficient gas turbine engines. The gas exported from B.C. will displace more carbon-intensive energy sources in Asian markets, it says. 

It’s not an argument that everyone is buying, though. Karen Tam Wu, B.C. managing director at the Pembina Institute, said the province may have difficulty reconciling this decision with its long-term climate goals. 

B.C.’s governing New Democrats rely on the B.C. Green Party to keep the confidence of the Legislature, and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver wasted no time condemning the decision and the New Democrats’ support of it. 

“Our Caucus has been clear that we do not support the government’s LNG regime. The government does not have our votes to implement this regime and will have to work with the B.C. Liberal MLAs if they want this project to go forward,” he said in his statement.

Some of the tax breaks promised to LNG Canada may require legislation, but support from the Opposition Liberals is not entirely out of the question. The Liberals were strong proponents of LNG development when they were in office.

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