B.C.’s Pacific Northwest LNG project faces more delays
Posted by Zig Zag
By Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun, March 20, 2016
A federal review of the $12-billion Pacific Northwest LNG facility in northwest B.C. has been granted a three-month extension.
It further delays an already-lengthy decision on a major energy transportation project meant to open up new markets for natural gas in Asia.
The extension was granted by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna at the request of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency over continuing concerns about the project’s effect on fish habitat.
A key concern from First Nations, environmentalists, and area residents has been the potential harm the project could have on eelgrass beds on Flora Bank, adjacent to Lelu Island, the proposed location of the terminal. The eelgrass beds are considered prime habitat for juvenile salmon.
In a statement this weekend, CEAA said it received new information earlier in March from the company, which contains additional details about the project and changes to its construction schedule and methods. CEAA noted that Pacific Northwest LNG had indicated that some of the key mitigation and potential conditions to the project the agency had proposed, to avoid or reduce significant adverse environmental effects to fish and marine mammals, were not feasible.
This information must be reviewed, analyzed, and considered in the final environmental assessment report, said CEAA.
“As a result, the agency has requested additional information from the proponent in order to determine whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The information request pauses the legislated timeline, which will resume once the proponent has satisfied the information request,” said the federal agency.
CEAA said it recognizes the importance of timely decisions, while balancing the need for a fair and thorough process that is grounded in science.
“This extension will ensure all available and relevant information and science is considered, including over 34,000 comments recently received from the public to allow for informed decision-making,” it said.
The delay will be considered another blow by the project’s consortium led by Malaysian state-controlled Petronas. It will also be a blow to Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal government which has pinned an economic plan on creating a new liquefied natural gas export industry to create jobs and fill the province coffers with new tax revenues.
The project, near Prince Rupert, has an estimated cost of $36 billion if development to extract gas in northeast B.C. and a pipeline to the coast are included.
The project, and other similar proposals in B.C., already faces headwinds from dampened global demand, competition from new entrants such as the U.S., and the need to reduce capital spending because oil prices have plummeted.
This latest delay also comes just as the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation elected leadership, in an eleventh-hour turn, offered conditional support for the LNG terminal that will liquefy natural gas and load it on ships for transport overseas.
In a letter to CEAA from elected mayor John Helin, the Lax Kw’alaams said they could support the project if they were part of an environmental performance committee that monitored effects of the project and had a say in compliance and enforcement actions.
The position — which opens the door to support for the project in its existing form — is a significant change from earlier positions of the community which, in the spring of 2015, unanimously rejected a $1.15-billion benefits package from the company and the B.C. government that included cash and land.
At the time, the Lax Kw’alaams said in a statement it was open to LNG development but not at a location close to Flora Bank.
Some Lax Kw’alaams hereditary chiefs reacted with shock to the “about-face” and said they would continue to oppose the project.
Posted on March 20, 2016, in Oil & Gas and tagged Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Lax Kw'alaams First Nation, Lelu Island, LNG, Pacific NorthWest LNG, Petronas. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.