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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

High water levels on Shuswap Lake may close popular Canoe Beach

Salmon Arm city staff say rain predicted could flood tunnel, causing beach closure

Sandbagging continues for flood-prone areas around Shuswap, Mara lakes

Shuswap Emergency Program closely monitoring water levels

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

Shuswap caregiver a hero in husband’s eyes

Night and day shifts leave little time for Tracy and Rick Duncan

City of Enderby issues flood caution reminder

Rain in Sunday weather forecast could increase water levels and flow

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

Summerland man rescued following ATV accident

Helicopters used to transport injured man to Kelowna for treatment

Mother bear and two cubs spotted in West Kelowna

Residents of Shannon Lake are urged to be on the look out for three bears in the area

Social justice advocate yells at Kelowna council, demands presence at Black Lives Matter rally

Heather Friesen has again taken to council chambers to make her opinion heard

Youth filmmakers tackle technology addiction, relationships, cyber-bullying

The Kelowna couple won a grant from Telus STORYHIVE

Vernon videographer captures thunderstorm

See the ‘best bits’ of Saturday’s storm

Dyer: I left my heart in the desert

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Most Read