2. Context: Struggling to Strike a Balance

In early 2012, the Government of British Columbia released its Liquefied Natural Gas Strategy. The document outlines the province’s ambitions to access new overseas markets for its extensive unconventional gas reserves via a series of planned LNG facilities and terminals, creating jobs and revenue.

The proposed new fossil fuel export industry has since emerged as the province’s top policy priority. Assuming industry proponents secure First Nations support, the necessary environmental approvals, and social licence, the provincial government would like to see at least three LNG plants up and running on the British Columbia coast by 2020.

In response, industry proponents have brought forward at least 17 proposals—though only a fraction of that number will likely come to fruition. To date, the National Energy Board has granted export licences to seven companies that would like to build new LNG plants and terminals in the coastal communities of Squamish, Prince Rupert, and Kitimat.

Today, British Columbia reaps the reputational and environmental benefits of leading climate and energy policies introduced some years ago. These include a carbon tax, a ban on coal power without carbon capture, and a requirement that the province source 93 percent of its electricity from clean or renewable sources.

The provincial government has stressed that the proposed LNG industry will bring British Columbia many new jobs and much investment. At full build-out, the province anticipates the industry will support as many as 75,000 permanent jobs (Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Natural Gas, 2013).. Given the frequency with which the government cites such job creation, in-region employment is clearly a policy priority (see sidebar: “It’s All About the Jobs”).

In September 2013, we released a report, The Cleanest LNG in the World? (Glave/Moorhouse, 2013). After surveying facilities and practices across the globe to define “world’s cleanest LNG,” the study outlined the conditions under which British Columbia’s petroleum sector might produce a fuel that truly meets such a global gold standard for carbon emissions.

We concluded that without policy leadership, made-in-B.C. LNG will not be the cleanest in the world but would instead emit more than three times the carbon pollution of the current global gold standard. We based our finding not only on the emissions associated with LNG production, but on the full carbon footprint of the fuel they would produce—from wellhead to waterline.

As detailed in The Cleanest LNG in the World, the province can make good on its commitment to deliver a fuel that is world-leading with respect to carbon pollution, but doing so would mean requiring industry to adopt a range of technical solutions up and down the LNG production chain.

The province has been negotiating with LNG proponents for approximately the past year. The discussions centre on how best to ensure the proposed plants remain economically viable in a competitive global fuels marketplace, while retaining social licence and ensuring adequate benefits accrue to British Columbians—both today and into the future.

We prepared Lock in Jobs, Not Pollution as a follow-up to The Cleanest LNG in the World? This report aims to further inform these ongoing conversations, and to provide industry, government, and the citizens of British Columbia with a deeper understanding of the risks, benefits, and opportunities of various approaches to powering LNG production.