Premier Christy Clark has been touting her support for the proposed Site C dam project in the northeast, saying energy from the project is needed to support the various liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects anticipated throughout the province.
But her NDP opponents say by the time Site C is finished – if it’s approved – it will be too late for LNG.
“Site C has nothing to do with LNG,” said Skeena NDP candidate Robin Austin, who is seeking re-election. “The time it would take Site C to be built, the window for us to get into the market in LNG would have come and gone… she’s completely inaccurate.”
Rob Fleming, who is also seeking re-election as an NDP candidate for a southern Vancouver Island riding, and who visited Terrace recently, echoed Austin’s claim, saying it would be years before Site C is approved.
“Site C is at stage three of a five-stage environmental review,” he said. “Already they’re coming into major geotechnical concerns…there’s also escalating costs, this is now at something like $9 to 11 billion, when they started looking at it it was $3 billion. Who knows where that’s going to be when they finish the review in 2017?”
There are other energy alternatives being looked at in the area, Fleming said, citing wind power and potentially boosting the output of already existing hydroelectric dams as methods to produce power needed by LNG plants.
At the same time, Fleming called for a comprehensive review of how natural gas is taken from the ground, giving the time frame of six months for such a study.
“Long enough so that a considerate, comprehensive report can be produced, but short enough so that it doesn’t drag on so long that we miss opportunities,” Fleming continued.
“It is developing very rapidly in the northeast,” said Fleming of the extraction industry, “and some of the regulatory gaps that have been identified and criticized are things that the province of B.C. has to study itself.”
“There’s some investment interest in the province of B.C. but few have submitted documentation,” he said.
Pipeline route details and airshed concerns, specifically in Kitimat and tied to the type of energy used to produce LNG, are other topics that need to be addressed with industry, he said. “I think industry realizes that it can only operate in British Columbia if it shows that it’s developing a crown resource safely,” said Fleming.
And while the NDP understands the concerns about hydraulic fracturing, the process increasingly being used to extract natural gas from the ground, Fleming says it is going to happen, and that B.C. should look toward jurisdictions such as Illinois, which will have some of the strictest fracking laws on the planet following collaborations between industry, environmental groups and legislatures in drafting regulations.
“It’s going to happen. In B.C. there’s no possibility of a moratorium on it because it is happening,” Fleming said. “So how do we, going forward, make sure fracking in British Columbia is done safely?”