Lelu Island Could Become Canada’s Largest Carbon Polluter

By Roy L Hales

One of the smartest things Premier Christy Clark’s government has done was ask Matt Horne, of the Pembina Institute, to join BC’s Climate Leadership Team last year. The credibility they gained from that single act opened the door to new possibilities. Unfortunately that door appears to have shut . Premier Clark chose to ignore the suggestions made by her Climate Leadership Team. Yesterday  Horne has released a statement that the proposed LNG facility on Lelu Island could become Canada’s largest carbon polluter.

No Point Having LNG Development If We Cannot Protect The Environment

Courtesy the Pembina Institute
Courtesy the Pembina Institute

Clark’s government claims it will have “the world’s cleanest LNG facilities” and  is “protecting the air and water in B.C.”

It has been more than a year since Environment Minister Mary Polak said, “There is no point in establishing an LNG industry in B.C. if we can’t protect the environment – we want to enable safe development with great environmental standards. We have a proud heritage of developing the oil and gas industry in this province to world-leading standards. This pride and commitment to the environment guides us as we take this next, big step with LNG.”

This statement would appear to be contradicted by the graph at the left, which shows B.C. is the only one of North America’s top 10 gas producing states/provinces that does not have methane regulations.

In previous interviews with the ECOreport, Horne said it might be possible for B.C. to build an LNG and still meet its’ emissions targets.

Lelu Island Could Become Canada’s Largest Carbon Polluter

The conditions to make that possible clearly have not been fulfilled and in press release sent out yesterday, he states,  “No matter how you spin it, the Pacific NorthWest LNG project will not help reduce global carbon pollution. Stronger climate policies — not increased fossil fuel production — are the climate solution.”

In a summary of his comments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA),  Horne wrote:

  • Estimate of the Emissions from the Lelu Island LNG compared to companies working in the Alberta oil sands - Courtesy Pembina Institute
    Estimate of the Emissions from the Lelu Island LNG compared to companies working in the Alberta oil sands – Courtesy Pembina Institute

    The greenhouse gas emissions from the project and the associated upstream activity are significant and represent material challenges to B.C. and Canada being able to meet their climate change targets. In the case of B.C. in particular, the project and the associated upstream activity as designed under current policy makes achieving B.C.’s 2050 target an implausible scenario.

  • The challenges to B.C. and Canada’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions will be exacerbated because of two issues: 1) the international agreement on climate change reached in Paris will require Canada to increase its ambition to reduce GHG emissions over time (and this requirement is embedded within the Vancouver Declaration signed by the prime minister and the premiers on March 3); and 2) the methane emissions from upstream gas included in the draft report likely underestimate the true contribution of methane to the overall emissions from the project and its associated upstream activities.
  • Based on a comparison with other LNG projects proposed for B.C. and evidence on the potential to reduce upstream emissions, it is clear that better practices are possible and already being planned for similar developments in B.C. If the project and the associated upstream activity followed those better practices for managing GHG emissions, it would reduce, although not resolve, the challenges described in the previous two bullet points.
  • The climate change policies currently in place are not adequate to require better practices and put the province and country on track for their climate change commitments. The ongoing freeze in B.C.’s carbon tax and exemptions in carbon tax coverage undermine its ability to encourage cuts in GHG emissions from the project and upstream activities. Three of the four compliance pathways under B.C.’s Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act do not ensure GHG emissions reductions from the project.
  • The project will not help to reduce global GHG emissions, and this argument (advanced by proponents and the province) should not be used to justify the increased GHG emissions in B.C. and Canada. The increased availability of natural gas and LNG does not result in the needed transition away from fossil fuels. The main determinant of that transition will be how effectively national and sub-national jurisdictions adopt climate change policies to reduce the GHG emissions they are responsible for.

Top Photo Credit: Matt Horne, B.C. associate regional director for the Pembina Institute, speaks at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in Vancouver, B.C. December 11, 2015. Photo: Stephen Hui, Pembina Institute.

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