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Experts Question B.C.’s Promise of "Clean" LNG

The Squamish Chief  covers Boom or Bust? BC’s LNG Legacy a speaker panel featuring Clean Energy Canada senior analyst Jeremy Moorhouse. Here’s a copy of the original article by Rebecca Aldous:

If there’s one thing Squamish residents need to do to shape the course of the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant slated for Howe Sound, it’s be vocal, said a panel of environmental experts at a community discussion.

Provincial officials have assured citizens that the made-in-B.C. LNG industry will be “the cleanest LNG in the world,” Jeremy Moorhouse, Clean Energy Canada’s senior analyst, told the approximately 350 people that packed the Boom or Bust? B.C.’s LNG Legacy event at Quest University on Tuesday, April 8. And residents need to hold the legislative assembly accountable, he said.

One way to do that is to ensure all 15 of B.C.’s proposed LNG plants, including the project earmarked for the former Woodfibre pulp mill site, are operated by renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Liquefying natural gas requires it to be cooled to -162 degrees Celsius, a process in which many plants burn the gas in order to generate enough power for the conversion. If all the province’s LNG facilities relied on renewable energy it would provide 400 additional permanent jobs in the province and reduce carbon emissions by a third, Moorhouse said, adding the cost of running off of clean energy is minimal.

“Once you factor it in all the other costs, it is only a two per cent increase,” Moorhouse noted. “Which means the industry remains competitive.”

Operating a smaller operation like the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant off of hydro, which already runs to the site, could reduce air pollution by 90 per cent, he added.

The province’s boom or bust rush to start pumping LNG to Asia is shortsighted, warned Mark Lee, senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The expansion of the industry also runs counter to B.C.’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act, a commitment to reduce carbon pollution 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020, he said.

“We are at an important moment in history,” Lee said. “We know that business as usual is not compatible with the environment.”

B.C. officials are assuming LNG plants provide 800 permanent jobs per facility, a figure Lee said is least 500 positions too high. In Squamish, residents can expect the proposed Woodfibre plant to add approximately 100 jobs to the work pool, he noted.

It is anticipated that it will cost $9 per gas unit to get the material out of the ground and to the Asian market. The B.C. government is aiming to sell the product for $16. That price is volatile, Lee warned. The 2011 tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan increased the demand for LNG. At the time, the Japanese government decided to shut down all of the country’s atomic power plants, a decision officials are considering reversing.

“Japan and Korea together are more than half of the world market,” Lee said regarding the industry.

When examining LNG, one has to look at its entire life cycle, said Matt Horne, B.C.’s regional director for the Pembina Institute, an organization that advocates for clean energy solutions through research, education and consultation.

Seven years ago, Canada was running low on gas and natural gas was too costly to chase. That all changed with the advancement of fracking, Horne said.

The procedure in which rock is fractured with pressurized water to get at the gas comes with its own set of drawbacks. Four million cubic meters of water is used annually in fracking processes in northern B.C., the equivalent of two and a half Alice Lakes, Horne said. The liquid can then become contaminated and fracking presents the risk of methane leaks, he noted.

The industry pumps 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the environment — 20 per cent of the province’s overall industrial figure, Horne said.

“There is almost always a way to reduce the impacts,” he said.

In light of the natural gas explosion that injured five people at Plymouth, Wash., this month, Brackendale resident Glenne Campbell questioned the safety of LNG facilities. The query left the panel stumped and participants with more questions. Residents should collaborate with First Nations if they want a say in the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, Squamish resident Richard Moore said. B.C.’s environmental laws have been gutted and it’s up to citizens to take a stand, he added.

“Aboriginal people will have the power,” Moore said. “We have to make sure we support the aboriginal people.”

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