SKEENA NDP MLA Robin Austin backs the idea of a common energy corridor for natural gas pipelines but thinks advancing the idea might be a bit early because no liquefied natural gas projects in the region have actually gotten off of the ground.
“I think it makes sense for energy companies as they develop their route plans to think about ways they can work together so as not to rip up more of northern B.C. than necessary,” he said.
Austin’s comment follows the release today of a provincial legislative committee report which recommends the government consider a common energy corridor.
That consideration would be included in a cumulative environmental assessment of all LNG projects, said the committee.
The prospect of five or more pipelines carrying natural gas to LNG plants in Kitimat and in Prince Rupert has sparked discussion about their combined environmental and other impacts.
But Austin acknowledged that the competitive nature of the LNG business would make an energy corridor difficult to organize.
Still, he said companies should realize they’d save enormous amounts of money by cooperating where possible on pipeline routes.
“In Australia they’ve just finished four separate pipeline routes to projects adjacent to each other,” said Austin.
“That’s jacked up the costs tremendously and I think now those companies realize it makes no sense. And some of those companies are the same as those with projects here,” he said referring to Chevron’s Kitimat LNG project and Shell Canada’s LNG project, also at Kitimat.
While Austin favoured the idea of companies cooperating on routes, he drew the line on having the province develop its own corridor and then making it available to energy companies.
“I don’t want to see any energy corridor that would then allow Enbridge to run a pipeline down it,” said Austin of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline which would transport Alberta crude to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.
The finance committee also recommended the province continue to explore revenue sharing with northern governments and that First Nations be included.
“That really goes without saying. It’s a given. I think in this day and age there is no way First Nations can’t be involved,” said Austin.
And he backs another finance committee recommendation to spend money now on northwestern infrastructure to ensure communities are ready for the impact of large-scale industrialization.
“If you look at communities in the northeast and Fort McMurray where industrial development happens quickly, you’ll see the impacts. Communities don’t have the ability to cope after the fact,” said Austin. “Communities get overwhelmed.”
Austin said that was stressed in meetings he attended when Terrace city council met with provincial cabinet ministers earlier this fall.
The legislative finance committee recommendations regarding LNG development were released today, marking the start of the provincial government’s deliberations leading up to next spring when its 2014 budget will be set.
The committee spent five weeks traveling the province listening to presentations.
Its recommendations don’t have to be adopted as budget items but are considered by the province in crafting its spending and taxation plans.
And an LNG information session last night in Terrace, hosted by Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, saw industry and energy stakeholders, environmental groups, and business representatives form a panel that took audience questions on LNG development in the area.
Several audience members expressed interest in the idea of an energy corridor in the lead up to their questioning.