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Society
| 11/12/15

BC LNG efforts face fresh hurdles

TCE

Efforts to develop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in British Columbia faced a series of further challenges this week, with a pair of letters from First Nations, environmental groups and unions calling on the new Canadian prime minister to intervene against LNG development, amid fresh numbers suggesting the global demand for the product is weakening.

The hereditary chief of the Gitwilgyoots nation, Donnie Wesley, wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging Ottawa to deny the Malaysia-based Petronas corporation permission to construct an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. Some 70 organisations and prominent individuals signed on to the letter, including Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver, the president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Stewart Phillip, and media personality and geneticist David Suzuki.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) is expected to deliver its verdict on the project in February, 2016.

A second letter addressed to the incoming national leader and outlining similar objections, was crafted by Joy Thorkelson, northern representative of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union. The letter stressed the importance of the Skeena salmon fishery, which environmental groups say will be threatened by the project.  The CEAA suspended its review process for the third time on 2 June, requesting that Pacific NorthWest LNG provide additional details on the likely effects on nearby Flora Bank, a critical eelgrass-bed habitat for juvenile salmon on the Skeena River estuary, according to environmental groups.

Meanwhile, this week, the Malahat Nation elected a new leader, Caroline Harry, a fervent opponent of LNG development. She replaces acting chief Tommy Harry, who had favoured economic development opportunities.

“Power of money creates greed. End it before it ends us. #Team #No #LNG,” she had written on her Facebook page ahead of her election.

The Malahat nation in August had concluded an agreement with Steelhead LNG over the construction of a floating LNG plant in the Saanich Inlet that would see the processing of 6 million tonnes of the resource annually. The project would involve the construction of a pipeline delivering natural gas to Vancouver Island from the mainland, whereupon it would be liquefied and transferred to tankers bound for Asian and Latin American ports.

The developments came as Lloyds List, the venerable shipping industry journal, reported that there is growing uncertainty on how the LNG trade is to develop due to a crash in Asian LNG prices and softening global demand as the world economy weakens. The paper reported that a great deal of LNG investments in recent years have been made in expectation that Asian LNG prices would remain high, yet they are now at record lows, making many such projects unprofitable. Lloyds argued that this is significant because Asia accounts for 75 percent of worldwide LNG demand.

The argument dovetails with research released in July by Carbon Tracker, a London-based financial think-tank, warning that more than $280 billion in LNG projects are likely to be left as “uneconomic” if nations successfully agree to a treaty limiting global warming to an average temperature rise of 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The report singled out the planned Kitimat, Prince Rupert and Pacific Northwest LNG projects as likely “stranded assets”.

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