Climate campaigner disputes Province's claim that BC's LNG plants will be 'clean'

Photos by Province of British Columbia
Right: photo of Environment Minister Mary Polak by Mychaylo Prystupa

New  legislation ensures BC will have the world's cleanest liquefied natural gas facilities in the world, environment minister Mary Polak says, but Wilderness Committee Climate Campaigner Eoin Madden disagrees.

“There’s no way the LNG industry in BC could be clean. Ever. We might as well still be using coal and burning coal," Madden says.

“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,” Polak states just as emphatically in a statement released to media yesterday. “As the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, natural gas is part of a global climate solution.”

But Madden says the industry should be called “liquefied fracked gas” because it’s driven from the harmful fracking process – creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open.

“Why that impacts the climate is simple. When you frack for gas you release another type of gas called methane,” he said, “its 80 to 90 times more impactful to the environment than carbon dioxide.”

The Province’s plan is to enforce a greenhouse gas emissions intensity benchmark that is lower than any other LNG facility in the world. There will be options to reach these benchmarks, according to the release, including the chance to purchase offsets and contribute to a technology fund.

BC’s LNG outlines the Province's goals in maintaining clean energy and climate action:

  • An emissions benchmark with flexible options - including purchasing offsets and a technology fund - will be the most effective at meeting the Province's goals while maintaining LNG industry competitiveness.
  • The benchmark and its compliance costs must be viewed in the context of total B.C. operating costs to ensure the province remains a competitive place to invest.
  • A program will be included to provide a pro-rated incentive to companies for achieving the benchmark based on the LNG industry's compliance costs, which will ensure the competitive investment environment continues. By encouraging investment in advanced technology and rewarding achievement of world-leading performance, the program will help ensure the development of the cleanest LNG facilities in the world.

“For me, it’s not helpful, said Madden, “because it serves to persuade people of an untruth that we can do LNG, we can do it cleanly and not have an enormous impact on the climate. It’s not possible to have an LNG industry in BC and not have a massive impact on our climate even with carbon credits or offsets, simply because we have to frack for that gas.”

Retired KPMG partner and chemistry PhD Eoin Finn said in an e-mail, “the proposed law would allow up to 16 per cent "free" pollution, and tax 50 per cent of the excess up to 23 per cent at $25/tonne. If the producers are selling the LNG for $500-600 a tonne, the $12.50/tonne (50 percent times $25) disincentive is quite unlikely to make them stop polluting. Especially when they can avail of the very discredited "offset" program, or buy pollution credits form another under-emitter.”

Additionally, the province introduced Bill 6 the Liquefied Natural Gas Income Tax Act in the B.C. legislature today. The bill is a competitive income tax applicable to the LNG industry and “gives proponents the certainty they need to make investment decisions while ensuring British Columbians receive the revenues they deserve from this new industry,” finance minister Michael de Jong said in a press release.

The LNG Income Tax applies to the net income from liquefaction activities at LNG facilities in BC. The net income rate will be 3.5 per cent, beginning on or after Jan. 1,2017. The release states this would be one of the several revenue sources from the LNG development. Royalties from the natural gas extraction will provide BC with revenues.

“Construction activity will generate economic growth and jobs, leading to increased revenue from income and sales taxes,” said the release.

“I find it quite distasteful that a small LNG plant, like Woodfibre, which proposes to use electricity to power the liquefaction process, will get paid to sell their pollution credits,” said Finn of the credit program. “As the heavy-industry electricity rate is heavily subsidized, taxpayers in BC will be dinged twice over in this deal. First the $7.1 million for selling unused pollution credits and then (more than) $60 million hydro subsidy. Each year! For 100 jobs!”

The clean facilities legislation release acknowledged that the actions and incentives alone would not end the need for climate action, and that the government is working with industry to reduce emissions in the upstream.

“If the BC governments were serious about talking about the climate impacts of its proposed energy industry, it would come clean about the fact that it wants to frack the whole province to get at that gas,” said Madden.  

BC is also implementing new interim ambient air quality objectives for nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide for all new and expanding industrial facilities.

“There is finally the matter of who keeps score on the levels of these emissions - the same folks who regulated the Mount Polly mine tailings pond,” Finn noted. “Enough said!”

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