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BC’s LNG race is uneconomic and dangerous: Andrew Nikiforuk

"You need a public inquiry [on LNG].  You need to slow down and rethink this whole thing,” urges investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk

Andrew Nikiforuk Squamish lecture LNG Petro-State Politics - Mychaylo Prystupa
Andrew Nikiforuk giving his "LNG and Petro-State Politics" lecture at Quest University in Squamish on Sept. 25 - Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

Speaking at a packed university forum last week, long-time energy journalist Andrew Nikiforuk warned British Columbians to be wary of the “extreme energy” of LNG – a fossil fuel that is environmentally reckless, of dubious benefit to B.C., and financially risky to pursue, he argued.

Yet the Clark government is wrongheadedly pushing it, said the author, with serious consequences to B.C.'s wilderness, water and climate.

“You need a public inquiry.  You need to slow down and rethink this whole thing,” urged Nikiforuk at Quest University on Thursday.

“This whole issue of LNG and fracking… they remind me, as an Albertan, of the missed conversations and debates that we should’ve had in Alberta about the pace and scale of Tar Sands development.”

“[LNG] could change the direction of the province for a long time.” 

Speaking in Squamish - itself a community facing one of 16 LNG terminal proposals -- Nikiforuk told his audience about how B.C. is cozying up to mostly foreign corporations to frack a quarter of the province, with massive environmental costs, and for not nearly enough financial benefit for government coffers. 

The one-hour presentation is on Youtube. 

Especially worrying, he said, are efforts by the province to cover up the environmental impacts of existing fracks in the northeast – let alone from the massive expansion of the drill sites to feed several proposed coastal export terminals.  He pointed to this statement from B.C.’s Natural Gas Minister:

"The reality is we've been doing this for over 50 years, we've never had contamination from a drill.  We've never had a drill stem leak or fail," Minister Rich Coleman told the Vancouver Sun.

Reacting Thursday, Nikiforuk said: “What bullshit is this?”

“He does not do the industry any favours by lying, saying point blank that we don’t have any wells that leak.”

“Sorry Mr. Coleman, you do.” 

Known as “gas migration” in industry speak, gas leaks from fracking are incredibly common. U.S. fields release between 9 and 60 per cent methane, especially in the Gulf Coast, he said.

Also spilled are hydrogen sulfide (a brain toxin) and climate-worsening carbon dioxide.

“Where are the studies of drilling so massively into shale rock that contain so much CO2?” said Nikiforuk. 

A recent provincial airshed study for the Kitimat area purposely ignored greenhouse gases from LNG, said B.C.'s Environment Minister in July.

Fracking in northeast BC - Treaty 8 Tribal Association photo

Fracking in northeast BC - Treaty 8 Tribal Association photo

Land and water impacts

Fracking is “brute” industrial activity, requiring massive horsepower to blast sand, toxic solvents and water into underground rock to crack open fractures to release the gas.  Sometimes radioactive rock is hit too.

The fracks are also unpredictable. 

“One of the key issues with fracture, is you cannot always control the width, length and direction.” 

“It’s boom – off it goes,” said Nikiforuk. 

So much so, that northern B.C. drillers often accidentally frack into each other’s land leases, taking other owner’s gas, he added.

Massive land fragmentation is also required – massive grids of access corridors that make it easier for caribou and other at-risk game to be preyed upon.  Unlike conventional oil wells, frack sites deplete rapidly – up to 80 per cent by the third year – requiring drillers to continuously move and expand.

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