Federal decision on Pacific NorthWest LNG expected this summer

The federal government expects its decision on whether to approve Pacific NorthWest LNG to come by "mid- to late summer," according to a report from Bloomberg News.

In an interview on Monday in Japan, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said Petronas is expected to file the latest set of information to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency soon.

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“Very shortly after that, the clock begins to tick,” Carr told a reporter. “The government of Canada has given its assurance that a decision will be made within 90 days of that moment.”

Canadian officials with Pacific NorthWest LNG couldn't be immediately reached for comment. 

In March, the federal government pushed pause button on a final decision for the project, delaying it by three months after requesting more information on the project's environmental and Aboriginal impacts.

The project would source gas from the North Peace to an export terminal at Lelu Island, and has a total valuation of $36 billion.

Canadian officials with Pacific NorthWest LNG couldn't be immediately reached for comment, nor could officials with CEEA.

The project would source gas from the North Peace, and has a total valuation of $36 billion.


Meanwhile, the Pembina Institute says the climate change concerns about Pacific NorthWest LNG must be addressed in order for the project to be a viable, long-term source of employment for the the province.

We need to make sure there is a plan in place for the province to hit its targets, and also that we are doing everything we can to minimize emissions from this project,” said Matt Horne, the institute’s associate B.C. director. “That puts the province and country in a better position both from an economic and climate perspective in the long-run. If we look at the sustainability of those jobs, then making decisions in the right way today helps us in the long-run.”

He added: “I look at where the world is headed in terms of moving away from fossil fuels towards cleaner sources of energy, and the role (fossil fuels) are going to play in Canada’s and the global economies is likely to be declining. I think it is important for Canada and B.C. to be prepared for that shift, making sure our economies are prepared to compete in a world that does not need as many fossil fuels.”

Last week, Michael Culbert, president of PNW, said Petronas and its partners hope to make a final decision within months on whether to build what could be Canada’s first liquefied natural gas export project, although further delays to the environmental review could push that timeline back as proponents await the CEAA's decision

Project proponents suggest Pacific NorthWest LNG would provide up to 330 direct operational long-term jobs, about 300 local spin-off jobs and roughly 4,500 peak-construction jobs.

According to the Pembina Institute, in an increasingly carbon-sensitive world economy the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the proposed LNG project and its associated upstream activity are significant, representing material challenges to B.C.’s and Canada’s ability to meet their climate change targets. The province has legislated targets to reduce GHG emissions 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050.

For B.C. particularly, the project and the associated upstream activity as designed under current policy makes achieving its 2050 target an implausible scenario, says the Pembina Institute, which also expects methane emissions from associated upstream operations are underestimated based on the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Horne said: “It really is important to apply a climate test, and so we are supportive of the federal government moving down this path, and the key questions we think should be asked as part of that test is ‘does the project fit within the plan to meet targets,’ and ‘are the project’s emissions being minimized.’ Unfortunately, the answer is ‘no’ to both those questions in this case.

In its current form, he added, the Pembina Institute believes the PNW LNG project should not proceed. However, he also believes opportunity exists in B.C. to move ahead with the project if there are in place stronger policies and stronger regulatory decisions from government.

The B.C. Climate Leadership Team (of which Horne was a member) released recommendations to government in December aimed at enabling the province to achieve legislated climate targets, maintain a strong economy, mitigate negative impacts on vulnerable residents, as well as maintain B.C.’s world-leading climate-policy reputation.

As they relate to Pacific NorthWest LNG, the recommendations include increasing the province’s carbon tax by $10 per tonne per year starting in 2018 and expanding coverage in 2021, developing policies to protect emissions-intensive, trade-exposed sectors, setting a goal of reducing methane emissions from upstream gas production by 40 per cent within five years, as well as directing BC Hydro to develop an electrification strategy for LNG and upstream natural gas.

-- Staff, with files from Daily Oil Bulletin

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