Slow Down, Let's Review
LNG stands for liquefied natural gas. But wait, how can gas also be a liquid? Well, since this isn't a science blog we won't go into specifics but just know that natural gas is often turned into a liquid form to make it easier to transport and store before it gets used. So, when you hear LNG in the news it typically relates to the transportation of the resource rather than its end usage.
What Was Approved?
The federal government conditionally approved the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas project. The project has been dubbed the largest private-sector development in the country's history and is backed by Malaysian-owned energy giant Petronas. The plan is to move natural gas from B.C.'s northeast via pipeline to a terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. From there, the LNG will be exported to Asia via a really big boat.
There's a Catch... It's Conditional
The overall project was 'conditionally' approved, meaning that full project approval is dependent on several conditions, or rather 190 conditions in this case. These conditions have been laid out by the federal government after lengthy consultation with environmental groups, aboriginal leaders, and other stakeholders. The conditions cover important concerns such as wetland and wildlife management, cultural heritage sites, and long-term monitoring of the project. Petronas must prove that it can meet all set conditions or else the approval will not be granted and they will not be allowed to complete the project. They can also say to hell with the conditions and decide not to move forward with the project altogether but this is unlikely given how lucrative it could be.
Good VS Bad
During the announcement, there was a major focus on the potential the project has for creating long-lasting, high-paying jobs and how the $11 billion project would greatly boost the BC economy. However, there was much less of a focus on the not so glamorous facts associated with the energy project. Once completed, the new pipeline project would increase BC's greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 9% and increase the national level by close to 1%. While these numbers may not sound huge, they are far from what one might expect from a government that prides itself on being environmentally friendly and is currently working to meet international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
What Does this Mean?
The fact that the Liberals are willing to approve an energy project that is clearly not great for the environment shows that they are ready to compromise between economic growth and sustainability. The Trudeau Administration still appears confident in achieving carbon reduction targets which will likely mean the introduction of some sort of national emission reduction strategy such as a cap and trade program. Such a strategy has long been anticipated and would allow for projects such as the Pacific NorthWest pipeline to operate while also decreasing overall national emissions.
Furthermore, the fact that 190 conditions were imposed signals that while the government is willing to approve energy projects it doesn't plan to do so lightly and is going to keep its promises to environmental and aboriginal groups. In my opinion, this is a good compromise to ensure all stakeholders are satisfied while setting a precedent for future energy projects in BC. I don't feel the conditions are inappropriate and actually think many seem essential and are easily achievable. Will the conditions likely cost Pacific NorthWest more? Yes. Will the conditions make the project safer and more environmentally sustainable in the long term? Yes. Money well spent.