Clean energy plan at risk in push for LNG

On Friday, as the federal government was giving the green light to a Malaysian investment of billions more…

VICTORIA – On Friday, as the federal government was giving the green light to a Malaysian investment of billions more into northern B.C.’s liquefied natural gas megaproject, Coastal First Nations chiefs held their quarterly board meeting in Vancouver.

These are now the most powerful aboriginal leaders in North America, bankrolled by U.S. environmental groups and their wealthy charity foundation backers as guardians of the Great Bear Rainforest.

A major topic was the Haisla Nation, the Kitimat partner that abruptly quit its voluntary association with the Haida, Gitga’at and other communities over its plans to develop LNG exports.

This discord comes at a bad time. Premier Christy Clark has bet heavily on LNG, not just for her government’s future, but the industrial and economic direction of the province for decades to come.

Initial press reports were misleading. One had it that Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross, the B.C. government’s key ally on LNG, was “buddying up” with the Harper government on the Enbridge oil pipeline proposed to go to Kitimat, in the heart of Coastal First Nations territory.

Not so. Both Ross and Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt confirmed to me that they remain solidly against the Enbridge proposal. The disagreement is over how to power the processing of LNG, which the Haisla are pioneering with provincial assistance.

Sterritt said the Haisla and the rest of the group were in agreement until a few weeks ago. The plan was to follow Clark’s solemn vow to make B.C. LNG the “greenest” in the world.

All parties acknowledge that some of B.C.’s shale gas will have to be burned to process and ship LNG to Asia. The initial idea was that one or two natural gas-fired power plants would be built, eventually backing up wind, small hydro and other renewable supplies. BC Hydro has 600 megawatts available from its dams, which would require new transmission capacity up to Kitimat to help run the first two LNG plants proposed in partnership with the Haisla.

Then the play got bigger. The B.C. government transferred Crown land on Douglas Channel to the Haisla for an LNG project planned by Shell, PetroChina and Korea Gas. And Sterritt said he started getting signals from Victoria that the industry doesn’t want to buy power from outside producers to drive LNG cooling and compression. Instead they wanted to power it directly with gas, using equipment called “mechanical drives” rather than electrical drives.

In a letter to Haisla members explaining why he quit the Coastal First Nations, Ross said he was insulted by Sterritt’s comments that the Haisla were choosing “the dirtiest way possible” to ship LNG. Ross noted that emissions would be about the same if gas is burned in the LNG plant or in a power plant nearby.

That’s true, but Sterritt points out a critical difference. If LNG producers are allowed to use single-purpose mechanical drives, no renewable energy can ever be added. And as more LNG producers rush into B.C., reserves that would have lasted 75 to 100 years could be depleted in 30.

And when the gas is gone?

“These big, hulking plants that are going to be in Kitimat are just going to be sitting there, rotting,” Sterritt said. “It happens all over the world.”

B.C.’s clean energy plan envisions extending the BC Hydro grid, developing run-of-river and wind farms such as the big offshore proposal off Haida Gwaii, and ultimately a future beyond oil and gas.

Now, in their rush to develop LNG, Clark and Energy Minister Rich Coleman seem poised to abandon that strategy.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.comtfletcher@blackpress.ca.

 

Just Posted

In photos: Uptown Askew’s Family Day

The Uptown Askew’s Family Day event was filled with classic cars, face… Continue reading

Word on the street: Has the wet July weather put a damper on your summer any?

Due to the wetter-than-usual July weather, the Observer asked: Has the wet… Continue reading

CSRD to support cannabis growth in agricultural zones

Regional district revision brings policy in line with Agricultural Land Commission

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Showers to start weekend, sun returning soon

Environment Canada forecasts rain on Saturday and the heat returning next week

South Shuswap residents kick waste collection concept to the curb

Area C residents prefer existing depot system, suggest more enforcement

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Donkeys await your hugs and scritches at anniversary event

Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge invites public to help celebrate 20 years of care.

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

COLUMN: Looking back to a time of optimism

The first lunar landing 50 years ago was a time to celebrate dreams and accomplishments

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Most Read