Quebec’s environmental review board says the risks associated with GNL Québec’s proposed Saguenay gas terminal project far outweigh its benefits.
The C$9-billion project would liquefy natural gas transported by pipeline from Western Canada, then export it by boat via the Saguenay Fjord, The Canadian Press reports.
“Two massive intertwined projects—the Gazoduc pipeline that will run from northern Ontario through the Abitibi and to the Saguenay, and the GNL Québec transformation plant in the Port of Saguenay—are being touted by proponents as an economic booster, job creator, and environmental innovator,” CBC explains. The BAPE report focused primarily on the LNG plant and marine terminal at the port, while the $5-billion pipeline will be subject to a separate assessment.
But meanwhile, the 500-page report from the provincial Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE) “states there is already significant global competition for LNG production and exportation, so the Saguenay project may not even be needed by the time construction is finished and the plant is up and running.”
Project proponents are calling GNL Québec one of the world’s greenest LNG plants, maintaining that endangered beluga whales in the fjord can be protected from passing tanker ships. “But the BAPE report is recommending the government take extra care to consider the risks to marine life, specifically the area’s beluga whale population, before making any decision about the project,” CBC says. “It also states the company didn’t provide any guarantees that exporting LNG from the Saguenay Fjord to international markets would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and it questioned the global demand for natural gas in the coming decades.”
The BAPE assessment “confirmed all the claims and positions of environmental groups about greenhouse gases and the impact on whales, specifically,” said Adrien Guibert-Barthez of the community-based Coalition Fjord.
“We should not have to debate whether or not we should construct more pipelines,” he added. “We should talk about how we can transition from fossil fuels to green energy.”
Nature Québec Director Alice-Anne Simard, called the report “devastating” for GNL Québec, adding that “the quicker we can put this project aside and say ‘no’, the quicker we can start all working together to put in place the green transition that we need.”
The BAPE said debate over the proposal is strongly polarized and that it couldn’t make any conclusions about the social acceptability of the project, even though that is one of the conditions set by the government for its authorization, CP writes. More than 90% of 2,500 public submissions to the BAPE opposed the project, the strongest showing on record in such environmental consultations.
The governing Coalition d’avenir Quebec (CAQ) supports the project, but opposition parties have argued against it. The Liberal party of Quebec last week changed its position to side with opponents.
CBC has GNL Québec interim president Tony LeVerger pledging to take the BAPE’s questions onboard and answer its questions. “Even though you can see some conclusions that may be a bit harsh at the end, as you get into the details and the contents, you realize it’s a lot more balanced,” he said. “As a company, we are optimistic we will be able to do it.”
But provincial environment minister Benoit Charette put the onus on the GNL Québec to deliver on that promise. “The report does not allow for the conclusion that one or more of those three conditions will be respected, so the ball is really in the promoter’s court,” he said.
Energy specialist Pierre-Olivier Pineau told CBC the BAPE report was tougher than he’d expected, adding that the commission should have limited its analysis to environmental factors, not project economics. [Because, as we’ve seen in Alberta, fossil companies never leave their messes behind for taxpayers to clean up when project economics fall apart—Ed.]
“I don’t see a bright future for the project,” Pineau said. “And I think for politicians, the BAPE report will be a clear indication that it is too sensitive to give the okay.”
The BAPE said the project should generate 6,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, plus 1,350 direct and indirect jobs during operation.