First Nations and environmental groups vowed to file “multiple legal actions” in Federal Court Thursday, aiming to head off the federal government’s approval of a C$36-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) megaproject proposed by Malaysian state fossil company Petronas.
“A legal challenge puts the future of the project at risk after it has already been hit with a three-year delay in getting its environmental permit, and as Asian LNG prices have dropped by about two-thirds since 2014,” Reuters reports.
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“We believe there are serious flaws in the environment assessment process,” said SkeenaWild Executive Director Greg Knox. He noted that the project would be one of Canada’s largest sources of carbon pollution, even if it met the 190 conditions Ottawa attached to its approval.
“They totally ignored whatever we put forward to them” on salmon destruction and climate change, said Gitanyow Hereditary Chief Glen Williams, who told Reuters the Gitanyow and Gitwilgoots communities would sue the federal government for failing to meaningfully engage with them before accepting Petronas’ proposal.
Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna told the Vancouver Sun she was confident the federal cabinet had made the right decision on the Petronas plan. “We stand behind the science in this decision,” she said. “If legal action is taken, we’ll certainly consider what next steps need to be taken.”
But a report earlier this week in Alaska Highway News reinforced long-standing concerns about the disappearing market for Canadian LNG exports, raising further questions about British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s plan to tout a job-creating LNG boom when she faces a provincial election next spring.
“When Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman told B.C. Liberal Party supporters at a fundraiser last month that he expects a final investment decision on at least one large LNG project before the May 9, 2017, provincial election, he either was making a promise he likely can’t keep, or has some inside knowledge that experts in global LNG markets don’t have,” AHN noted.
“British Columbia’s aspiration to build a liquefied natural gas export industry is gaining momentum with Pacific NorthWest LNG’s receiving an extended export licence,” Coleman said, just a week before the federal cabinet decision. He added that he would be willing to reconsider the terms of a development agreement that had already been adjusted to make it more palatable to a project developer that has repeatedly threatened to abandon the deal.
“But ‘inertia,’ not ‘momentum,’ is perhaps a more accurate way to describe B.C.’s LNG industry,” wrote Alaska Highway News correspondent Nelson Bennett of Business in Vancouver. “Canada missed the first wave of opportunities to build new LNG projects, and thanks to a sudden oversupply from Australia, and lower than expected global demand, it will now have to wait for the next one—which is now projected to occur between 2025 and 2030.” That means no company will make a final investment decision in a Canadian LNG project before 2019 at the earliest, according to Oxford Institute for Energy Studies LNG analyst David Ledesma.
“You won’t see LNG out of Canada by 2020,” he told Bennett. “You might by 2025. I think you will by 2030.”
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