The B.C. provincial government claims that the province stands to make billions through the export of liquefied gas natural gas (LNG), but there remain big questions and debate about an expanded B.C. LNG sector and the environmental issues that come with it.
Overview of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
In the last decade there has been a boom in natural gas extraction and export in North America, mainly in the United States where new processes have allowed for access to natural gas reserves that were previously inaccessible. The most common of these new extraction processes is called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The fracking process involves pumping large amounts of mud, water and chemicals into deep natural gas deposits, creating enough pressure to crack open rock formations and release the gas.
These new gas discoveries have created an appetite for exports. To turn natural gas into a liquid for export, it must be cooled to 163 degrees below zero. Doing so requires running massive compression units 24/7. Each of the large LNG plants proposed for B.C.’s coast would need the equivalent of an entire Site C dam (1,100 megawatts of capacity) to power it by electricity. However, the reality is many of these plants will run their compressor units on natural gas, creating greenhouse gas emissions in the process. The proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG plant in B.C.'s northwest could become the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada if it is built.
LNG in British Columbia
In the run-up to the 2013 provincial election, B.C. Premier Christy Clark predicted an economic boom in the billions of dollars with the expansion of natural gas extraction and new large-scale LNG export facilities in B.C. Clark stated that an expanded LNG sector, mainly in the Peace River region in the province's Northeast, would pay off the provincial debt and produce more than 100,000 new jobs.
However, since Clark's claims in 2013 there has been a major glut in the global natural gas market, mostly due to aggressive expansion in the United States and a slowdown in demand in Asian markets. While at least 19 export LNG projects have been proposed for B.C., by spring 2016 none had yet started construction.
LNG, Fugitive Emissions and Climate Change
As the world deals with the realities of climate change, the natural gas industry has promoted itself as a less carbon-intensive form of energy than coal. While it is true that natural gas emit less carbon when it is burned, there remain major concerns about the amount of so-called “fugitive emissions” that are lost into the atmosphere during the extraction and transport of natural gas.
Natural gas is primarily methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas that is not easy to contain once it is brought to the surface and transported for processings. A 2013 report by DeSmog Canada contributor Stephen Leahy found that methane emissions from British Columbia's natural gas industry are likely at least seven times greater than official numbers, putting in jeopardy the province's entire commitment to greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Hydraulic Fracturing, Drinking Water Contamination and Earthquakes
The process of fracking has also been very controversial, especially in the United States where there has been a fracking boom in the past 15 years. A Stanford study on fracking has found the practice contaminates ground water. There are documented cases in both the U.S. and Canada of residents near hydraulic fracking sites being able to light their tap water on fire due to the high methane content.
There have also been documented cases of earthquakes being caused by the fracking process, which disrupts geological formations deep beneath the Earth's surface. Here in Canada, a study published in March 2016 confirmed the link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes. The researchers found, “39 hydraulic fracturing wells (0.3% of the total of fracking wells studied), and 17 wastewater disposal wells (1% of the disposal wells studied) that could be linked to earthquakes of magnitude 3 or larger.”
Image credit: Province of BC on Flickr
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on BC LNG
The B.C. government is subsidizing the LNG industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — and British Columbians are going to pay the price, according to a new report by Sierra Club B.C.
The report, Hydro Bill Madness: The BC Government Goes For Broke With Your Money, lays out the impact of tax breaks, subsidies and reduced electricity rates negotiated by industry.
“Power subsidies to even just two or three of the proposed LNG plants could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year,” reads a press release accompanying the report.
Two LNG export terminals have been approved in B.C. — Petronas’ Pacific Northwest LNG on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert and the Woodfibre LNG plant in Howe Sound near Squamish. Another 18 are proposed.
Both companies have been major donors to the B.C. Liberal party, which has ruled the province for 16 years and faces an election on May 9.
Malaysian-owned Pacific Northwest LNG donated more than $18,000 to the B.C. Liberals since 2014, while Indonesian-based Woodfibre has found itself in the midst of a growing scandal over illegal donations.
This is a guest post by Ray Eagle.
Many British Columbians may not realize that the $9 billion Site C dam, currently under construction on the Peace River, has a 46-year back-story.
B.C. Hydro began engineering studies for Site C back in 1971. In the early 1980s B.C. Hydro went before the newly formed British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), created “to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and nondiscriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.”
In November 1983, the BCUC issued a 315-page summary that stated the dam was not needed at that time, while at the same time criticizing B.C. Hydro’s forecasting ability.
“The Commission examined the methodology of Hydro's forecasting … and concluded that, while significant improvements have been made, further improvements can and should be made to improve reliability,” the report read.
This article originally appeared on The Tyee.
Imagine if you lived in a nice quiet community of about 30 people, and the Chinese government got permission to plunk a $20-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on your doorstep.
Holy snapping duck shit! Chances are you’d want a pretty strong say in whether that could or should happen, under what conditions, with whose permission — and you’d want a very clear, objective analysis of the costs and benefits, and the risks, to you, your family, your neighbours, not to mention the physical place that would be so massively disrupted by such a project — you know, the place you currently call home.
Most of us don’t live in nice quiet communities of 30 people — or maybe we do. On my residential block in East Vancouver, I’d say that (based on the census’s estimated average of 2.6 people per household in Vancouver) there are 30 people on my side of the street alone. Maybe you live in an old apartment building with 30 people in it total; maybe a condo with 30 people on your floor. Anyway, 30 people isn’t a lot, but $20 billion is, and right now, on Digby Island — right across the harbour from Prince Rupert in northern B.C. — the tiny community of Dodge Cove is staring down a project that would pretty much destroy it.
It’s become a “sacrifice zone” — yet another bucolic corner of the world at risk of being flattened on the anvil of progress.
Between the Site C dam, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility, it’s hard to keep track of all the projects that have been approved in B.C. But for First Nations that will be affected by the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal and pipelines, the environmental and cultural impacts are impossible to escape.
In what is now the fourth federal lawsuit filed against the federal government’s approval of the $36 billion LNG project, two Gitxsan Nation hereditary chiefs have filed a judicial review arguing that Pacific NorthWest LNG infringes on their Aboriginal fishing rights.
In October of last year, judicial reviews were also filed in federal court by the Gitanyow and Gitwilgyoots First Nations, as well as the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.
The main concern? Salmon. Specifically, salmon stocks in the Skeena watershed, which supports Canada's second-largest salmon run. The LNG export terminal is planned for Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert, a site the federal government studied 40 years ago and found unsuitable or port development.
For years, B.C. Premier Christy Clark has been under immense pressure to deliver on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) promises that formed the backbone of her 2013 election campaign.
Back then, the Liberals predicted LNG could create almost 40,000 construction jobs in BC, 75,000 full-time jobs once in operation, and much more.
“It's no fantasy,” read the Liberal platform of 2013. “We can create $1 trillion in economic activity and create the BC Prosperity Fund with $100 billion over 30 years.”
But four years later, the opportunity to cash in on LNG exports to Asia has dissolved, while the $100 million currently sitting in the Prosperity Fund has been drawn not from natural gas, but from sources like the premiums for the BC Medical Services Plan.
The gas industry has donated more than $1 million to the BC Liberals since the last provincial election, according to a new analysis done by the Wilderness Committee.
The companies and industry groups are involved in extracting B.C.’s gas (via fracking) and building gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations.
“This industry receives billions of dollars in provincial tax breaks and subsidies from the very government they’re paying to elect,” Peter McCartney, climate campaigner at the Wilderness Committee, said in a press release.
Gas industry donations since 2013 total $1,007,456.
This article originally appeared on iPolitics.
The man sitting at the head of the table has a face that should be on money.
It is calm, etched with wrinkle lines of infinite patience, utterly immune to honeyed words. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has heard more vows than the parsons in Reno’s drive-thru wedding chapels — most of them destined to be broken by the politicians who made them. Yet behind the softness, the weary eyes suggest something else. These are undefeated eyes.
I am in the downtown Vancouver boardroom of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the gentle voice is saying some very tough things.
“My wife and I were scheduled to march in the Chinese New Year’s parade in Vancouver, until we found out that Trudeau was going to be there,” he says. “No way was I going to meet him unless I was on one side of the barrier, and he was on the other.”
By Trevor Jang for Discourse Media.
Earl Muldon sits at his kitchen table surrounded by family, sipping coffee. His wife Shirley brings over a plate of cream cake topped with huckleberries. They’re hand-picked from the land surrounding his two-storey home in Gitanmaax, a village of about 800 people from the Gitxsan Nation in northwestern British Columbia, near the town of New Hazelton.
To the Gitxsan people, 80-year-old Muldon is known by another name: Delgamuukw. That name — a symbolic ancestral chief name passed down from generation to generation of Gitxsan people — is also one of the most well-known chief names in the rest of Canada. Delgamuukw was the lead plaintiff in a historic court case that confirmed that Aboriginal title, ownership of traditional lands had not been extinguished by any colonial government.
“It’s a name that’s greatly respected. We’ve earned respect for it,” says Muldon, who was one of three people to hold the Delgamuukw name during the court proceedings.
This article originally appeared on The Tyee.
Two University of Calgary law professors have demanded Alberta’s energy regulator withdraw its “inaccurate and misleading” statement on a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a landowner couldn’t sue it for alleged rights violations.
The court ruled Friday, in a split decision, that Jessica Ernst couldn’t sue the oil and gas regulator for allegedly violating her Charter rights.
The Alberta Energy Regulator posted a statement on its website in response to the highly technical ruling.
“The Court did not find there was a breach of Ms. Ernst’s Charter rights, and made no findings of negligence on the part of the AER or its predecessor the ERCB,” declared the statement.
But law professors Shaun Fluker and Sharon Mascher have written in a popular legal blog that the regulator’s claim isn’t true.
This article originally appeared on The Tyee.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled Jessica Ernst can’t sue the powerful and controversial Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) over alleged violations of her Charter rights.
The split ruling Friday — five justices rejected her claim, with four supporting it — is a setback for the protection of groundwater and the rights of landowners dealing with provincial energy regulators, often funded or captured by industry interests, say many critics and lawyers.
The majority, led by Justice Thomas Cromwell, upheld an immunity clause passed by the legislature that protects the Alberta Energy Regulator from any Charter claims or lawsuits.
In 2007, Ernst, an oil patch environmental consultant, sued the Alberta government, Encana and the regulator for negligence over the contamination of local aquifers near her Rosebud home allegedly caused by the hydraulic fracturing of shallow gas wells in 2004.