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B.C. Premier Christy Clark meets the Globe and Mail’s editorial board Oct. 1, 2013. She is under fire for allegedly walking back her clean-LNG commitments.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Premier Christy Clark says her long-standing commitment to see British Columbia export the cleanest liquefied natural gas in the world applies only to the manufacturing process – skirting the more significant greenhouse-gas emissions generated by extracting and moving natural gas to production plants.

"My commitment is to have the cleanest LNG facilities in the world," Ms. Clark told an editorial board meeting of The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

The Premier has made that promise to British Columbia repeatedly, a commitment that could have repercussions for natural gas producers if it applied to extraction of the raw resource.

"We have set a goal to have the cleanest LNG in the world," the Premier told the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, last year.

But she clarified on Tuesday that she never intended for that commitment to capture the emissions produced upstream.

"We don't produce LNG in the northeast, we produce natural gas. We will produce liquefied natural gas in the northwest, so that's what we have been talking about," she said. "There is no 'L' in LNG until it gets to Kitimat or Prince Rupert."

Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada, said the Premier appears to be watering down her earlier commitments.

"That's a significant difference," Ms. Smith said. "The government and the Premier herself are on the record many times promising to bring the cleanest LNG in the world, period. That means you look at where you take it out of the ground, all the way to the docks where you are exporting it."

Last week, the environmental organization released a report warning that the pledge to offer the "cleanest LNG" will require strict, and likely costly, rules to reshape how oil and gas companies operate in B.C.

Ms. Smith said B.C.'s commitment will not carry much credibility if it ignores the production and transportation of natural gas: "You can't cut virgin old-growth trees out of a forest, run them through a green sawmill, and call it eco-lumber."

The Clean Energy Canada report provided estimates showing that if the LNG industry grows as large as the B.C. government predicts, its carbon footprint could amount to nearly double that of the entire oil sands in 2010.

The report said one-third of the carbon emissions are expected to be created by the liquefaction process, while two-thirds of the emissions would be from getting it out of the ground and shipped to the coast. Natural gas from the massive Horn River field in northeastern B.C. contains about 12 per cent carbon dioxide – a very high level relative to other sources.

Ms. Clark heads to Washington, D.C., this week to tout B.C.'s climate-friendly record to help attract investment in LNG. By drawing attention to the province's carbon tax and its commitment to clean energy, she said she hopes to counter "the myth that Canada isn't a good actor on climate change."

Ms. Smith said any sign that the B.C. government is minimizing its commitment to clean LNG would be a poor signal to those investors.

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