Council confronts dark side of LNG development

Presentation from area environmental groups calls for cumulative environment and economic assessment support from Terrace officials

Representatives from two regional sustainability groups asked city council today to vote in favour of a push for a combined environmental and economic assessment of proposed LNG projects.

The request was included in a presentation by Nadia Nowak representing the Northwest Institute, a Smithers-based nonprofit advocacy group focused on sustainable development, and Greg Knox, director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.

Council heard and responded to the research conducted by both groups into the environmental impacts of up to 15 pipeline and LNG processing plant proposals for the region.

“It’s coming at us fast and furious,” said mayor Dave Pernarowski after their presentation, which examined the implication of a potential $100 billion flooding into Northwest industrial development, altering life for those in the area while also being integral to the global economy and environment.

Knox argued that a comprehensive environmental review guided by both historical and current data would enable the provincial and federal governments to make wise decisions about coming LNG developments.

Such a request is currently submitted to the North Central Local Government Association in the form of a resolution that will be voted on by members of local governments attending the AGM May 7 to 9 in Fort St. John.

The resolution requests “that NCLGA requests that the Province of BC and First Nations convene and co-chair a Strategic Economic and Environmental Impact Assessment of LNG development in British Columbia.”

Both Knox and Nowak displayed stats and graphs to council that showed the environmental effects if all five of the LNG facilities proposed for Kitimat and Prince Rupert went through.

They showed that this maximal scenario would see total greenhouse gas emissions of three-quarters that of the Alberta oil sands by 2020.

Knox also raised the spectre of what hugely increased nitrogen oxide emissions from the burning of gas used to supercool the LNG to 160 degrees below zero, for transport by ship to foreign markets, would mean for the Terrace-Kitimat airshed.

Research he presented shows a 500 per cent increase of nitrogen oxide, a compound that has similar effects as sulphur dioxide, which is another emission the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization project is already going to increase in its enhanced operation.

Effects of both types of emission cause respiratory problems for at-risk groups such as those with asthma, and have an impact on rainbow trout, amphibians, steelhead and local plants due to acid rain, said Knox.

Councillor Bruce Bidgood said council could “advocate for dual drives” to electrify the LNG cooling facilities using hydro power as a partial alternative to gas, though Knox said the Ministry of Energy and Mines has already made a decision to use gas generation as the sole means to generate power for the plants.

Councillor Brian Downie pointed out some uncertainty surrounding the numbers and stats presented, which Knox and Nowak acknowledged, saying that the research they have done is only the beginning. Concern raised by their preliminary findings led them to the conclusion that a unified assessment needs to be done.

“Because there is so much uncertainty in communities, they are trying to play catchup,” said Nowak, citing 10,000 workers projected to have come to the area if the major LNG projects go through.

Downie reminded them that the Northwest is in need of a sustainable economy as well as a sustainable environment.

Knox illustrated that some of the LNG proposals don’t make sense environmentally and economically, for instance the dredging of the sea bottom around Lulu Island where the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal is to be built, where he said long-recognized vital salmon habitat exists.

Bidgood said that he thinks overall Terrace city council sees LNG development in a favourable light but that he agreed with the motion to advocate for a cumulative impact assessment at NCLGA, after which individual councils could table their own resolutions.

Knox said the provincial government has finished an airshed impact study for Kitimat and area which he is hoping will be released this month.

Councillor Lynne Christiansen thanked Knox and Nowak for “their guardianship.”