Thursday, September 29, 2016

BC LNG project "approved" (with 190 conditions)

I can't decide whether the Liberal government is being politically astute or just plain hypocritical in their decision to allow a proposed terminal to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) near Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia.
Their "approval" of the project, touted as economic opportunity combined with environmental responsibility, comes with no less than 190 environmental conditions that would have to be fulfilled by the potential operator, Malaysia-owned Pacific NorthWest LNG (including a hard cap on carbon emissions from the project, which will mean that the company will have to substantially scale back the operation before it even starts). An associated pipeline, to be built by TransCanada Corp, would have it's own set of environmental challenges and conditions.
The governement-imposed conditions will take months to examine and consider and, with the current downturn in LNG prices due to a global glut of supply, it is by no means certain that the company will choose to continue, despite having already sunk billions into the early stages of the project.
As always, there are wildly differing views on the decision, most of them reasonably predictable. Environmentalists and the leftist NDP claim that, despite the environmental conditions built into it, the project would still jeopardize Canada’s international commitments on climate change. Some First Nations groups are worried that the environmental protections do not go far enough. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are decrying the onerous conditions, which they say are getting in the way of development of a major Canadian natural resource. The BC provincial government seems to be treating the whole thing as though it is a foregone conclusion.
Now, I assume that the decision was handled in this way because the Liberals do not want to be accused to being anti-business (and so need to technically approve the project), but they actually don't really want to the project to go ahead from an environment / climate change perspective (so they included enough conditions to make the project extremely uninviting, not to say prohibitive).
So, maybe they are just being cute and canny, which I am not sure I necessarily approve of. A good part of me believes that, if they want to disallow the project on environmental grounds, then they should just say so, instead of pussyfooting around the issue. But that is not really the Liberal way, is it?

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