The B.C. government has issued three environmental assessment certificates in the province's fledgling liquefied natural gas industry.
Two B.C. cabinet ministers, Mary Polak and Rich Coleman, made the announcement Tuesday, though there are many hurdles still to clear before any LNG project becomes reality in the province.
Environmental assessment certificates went to Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG and the related $5-billion, 900-kilometre pipeline plan named Prince Rupert Gas Transmission, which is being proposed by TransCanada Corp.
Ms. Polak, the Environment Minister, and Mr. Coleman, the Natural Gas Development Minister, awarded the other certificate to Spectra Energy Corp.'s $7.5-billion Westcoast Connector pipeline project, which would feed BG Group PLC's planned Prince Rupert LNG venture.
The provincial cabinet ministers said they made the decisions after considering reviews involving the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, however, is expected to take until mid-2015 before completing its review of Pacific NorthWest LNG. Malaysia's state-owned Petronas has said it plans to make a final investment decision on the joint venture by mid-December, despite the federal regulator's timetable that will take the review well into 2015.
The CEAA is the lead regulator in the Pacific NorthWest LNG file, co-ordinating the review with its provincial counterpart, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.
Some environmentalists have warned that a plan unveiled in October by Pacific NorthWest LNG to build a suspension bridge to avoid damaging sensitive salmon habitat in Flora Bank isn't adequate protection for the fish. A group of four First Nations has also warned that it opposes Pacific NorthWest LNG's selection of Lelu Island as the site for its $11.4-billion export terminal.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment noted that "to prevent or minimize adverse effects from the projects, each company proposed a number of significant route or design changes during the environmental assessment, based on feedback received during the process. Each project will require various federal, provincial and local government permits to proceed."