Skip to main content

An artistic rendering of Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal on Lelu Island in northwestern British Columbia.

Pacific NorthWest LNG says its B.C. project will help shift the world to a greener future, dismissing climate experts who are urging Ottawa to block the proposal to export liquefied natural gas to Asia.

The consortium issued a statement on Monday in reaction to a scathing letter from a group of more than 90 scientists and climate experts warning the federal cabinet that adverse environmental effects are looming. The letter said the proposed export terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert would make it virtually impossible for British Columbia to meet its targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and also undermine Canada's commitments.

But a global view should be taken when it comes to fighting climate change, said Spencer Sproule, Pacific NorthWest LNG's senior adviser of corporate affairs.

"Pacific NorthWest LNG, once in operation, would supply the world's cleanest LNG to our partners in Asia who are eager to import the same natural gas that British Columbians use in their daily lives," Mr. Sproule said.

The consortium, led by Malaysia's state-owned Petronas, is seeking approval from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to forge ahead with building an $11.4-billion export terminal on Lelu Island. The other partners are from Japan, China, India and Brunei.

Letter from scientists and experts

Total costs would exceed $36-billion, when factoring in natural-gas production in northeastern British Columbia and new pipelines required to transport the fuel to the West Coast.

The export terminal would super-cool natural gas into liquid form so the fuel can be shipped in tankers to Asia."Global appetite for LNG will continue to grow over the coming decades with numerous countries, including the United States, racing to meet that global demand," Mr. Sproule said. "Canada can move forward with exporting a significantly cleaner product to world markets or let our competitors step into the breach."

Pacific NorthWest LNG estimates that its export terminal would emit 4.9 million tonnes a year of equivalent carbon dioxide, but the letter argues that is a low figure. The scientists and climate experts caution that LNG from Canada won't necessarily displace coal. "LNG will also likely displace nuclear power, renewables and natural gas from other sources in many importing countries," they wrote in their letter to federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

The letter was copied to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Ms. McKenna said in late March that if the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency gives the go-ahead to the project, she will ask the federal cabinet to begin its discussions on whether to approve the plans.

The regulator began its review in April, 2013, in what has turned out to be a lengthy examination that is continuing. The environmental assessment agency froze the timeline on March 18 – Day 361 on the 365-day regulatory clock. But at the request of the agency, Ms. McKenna granted an extra three months to complete the review. It means that the federal cabinet has pledged to render a decision within three months of the agency receiving the proper information that it is still seeking from Pacific NorthWest LNG.

Japan's ambassador to Canada, Kenjiro Monji, said in a letter to the agency in March that Pacific NorthWest LNG's exports will be good for Asia's environment. "We understand the importance of climate change policies, especially for the new Liberal government," he wrote. "While the LNG export projects in British Columbia may produce some additional greenhouse gases, LNG exports to the Asian market will reduce the heavy use of coal-fired power and crude oil there."

But the cumulative effects of B.C. industrial projects need to be considered when examining the impact of resource development on the environment and local communities, according to a new report from West Coast Environmental Law and the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research.