Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, left, visited Terrace city council to advocate for a small proposed LNG project May 27. Councillor Sean Bujtas, middle, and mayor Carol Leclerc were present, as well as councillor Brian Downie, not pictured. Other councillors participated by phone. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)

Skeena MLA advocates for small LNG project in Terrace

Many questions unanswered about project, say opponents

Top Speed Energy’s proposed Skeena LNG project has received a vote of confidence from BC Liberal Skeena MLA Ellis Ross.

Skeena LNG would be a relatively small LNG operation sited at the Skeena Industrial Development Park just south of the Northwest Regional Airport. It would take gas from the existing Pacific Northern Gas pipeline which runs through the location, then use hydro electricity to supercool the gas down to -100 degrees Celsius or cooler, rendering the gas inert. The gas could then be stored in special containers, trucked to the port in Prince Rupert and exported to Asian markets.

Ross met with Terrace city council May 27 specifically to advocate for the project, touting it as a way to recover the region’s economy once pandemic precautions are lifted. He said one of the main advantages of Skeena LNG is that it’s small enough to avoid provincial red tape while seeking approval, so it can be up and running quickly.

Natural gas project proposals below a certain size do not need to pass a review by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office, according to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Act. Small projects instead go directly to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission for review. However, B.C.’s environment minister has the power to order an environmental assessment of any proposal if a member of the public writes to request one.

It’s imperative the Skeena LNG project avoid the Environmental Assessment Office, Ross told council.

“You have no idea where that’s going to go if it ends up at that place. You have no idea how long it’s going to take, how long it’s going to cost,” he said. “The permitting has to stay within the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, and keep it at that. That’s what I’m talking about in terms of red tape.”

Anne Hill, co-chair of environmental advocacy group North West Watch, said her organization will be writing the environment minister to request an environmental assessment of the Skeena LNG project. She said North West Watch has raised several safety concerns about the project and the only answers they’ve received have come from Top Speed Energy.

“We can’t just rely on the proponent to answer questions about the safety of their own project,” she said, adding that North West Watch does not have faith in the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission’s review process. “The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission are not in the business of rejecting projects. It is basically a rubber stamp.”

Ross also told council at the May 27 meeting that he is concerned about regulatory delays due to the pandemic.

“The only question right now is the timing, and the efficiency in terms of the responses that Top Speed is going to get from the regulator, which is the Oil and Gas Commission. This COVID-19 has slowed down everything,” he said. “I’d like to know, number one, when do we get back on track? Any kind of news is good news in terms of what the Oil and Gas Commission will do.”

Clark Roberts, CEO of Top Speed Energy, told the The Terrace Standard that the application process to the oil and gas commission is still moving along.

“I’m sure COVID-19 has slowed things down a bit, but [the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission] haven’t stopped the project, and we’re hopeful that we will obtain our facility permit in due course,” he said.

Council opted to invite a representative of the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission to appear before council to provide more information.

Council had previously passed a motion Dec. 9, 2019 declaring support for the Skeena LNG project, provided the proposal passes review by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller opposed the motion, according to minutes from the meeting. The motion was put forward by councillor James Cordeiro following a presentation Hill made to council about North West Watch’s concerns regarding Skeena LNG.

Hill told The Terrace Standard that she was displeased with council’s response to her presentation.

“They appear to be pushing the project and they are very resistant to asking too many questions. That was my feeling,” she said.

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