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Trudeau could decide on Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal in February

DePape on Lax U'u'la with Chief Yahaan.

DePape on Lax U’u’la with Chief Yahaan.

It appears that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) could issue a report on the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal this month, hold a 30-day public comment period in February, announce a decision at some point between late February and May, and that construction on the terminal could start by June with liquefied natural gas exports beginning in 2020-21.

This is how we have pieced that timeline together:

  • Back on Oct. 15, 2015, the Globe and Mail reported, “The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is expected to rule in early 2016 on [the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal].”

  • Then on Nov. 9, 2015, the Globe and Mail reported, “The [CEAA], which is reviewing plans by the consortium, is expected to issue its final ruling by late February.”

  • On Dec. 20, 2015, the Globe and Mail further noted, “The [CEAA] has restarted its review of a proposal to export liquefied natural gas from British Columbia after a delay that lasted more than six months. …As the process enters [on Dec. 21] day 273 [of what had been designed to be a 365-day process], it means that if all goes smoothly for Pacific NorthWest LNG, the regulator could be in a position to issue a draft report as early as January, energy experts say. That draft assessment report would be issued simultaneously with a separate document outlining environmental conditions for the consortium to follow.”

  • The Dec. 20, 2015 article continues, “After the draft report and the conditions are released, [CEAA spokesperson Karen] Fish said the public and aboriginal groups will be invited to submit their views during a 30-day comment period.”

  • And now the Globe and Mail reports, “[Michael] Culbert, president of Pacific NorthWest LNG, … is hoping for approval from the [CEAA], a decision that would allow the consortium to start constructing [the terminal]. If construction begins in mid-2016, it will likely take four to five years to complete the facility, so exports might flow in 2020 or 2021.” Culbert says, “We’ve positioned ourselves to be shovel-ready once we get the decision from CEAA.”

So it does appear that a federal decision on the LNG terminal is imminent.

While it’s not clear which way the Trudeau government will decide on this issue, it did recently extend a tax break intended to spur LNG development in British Columbia.

On Feb. 19, 2015, the Harper government announced a substantial tax cut – estimated to be about $50 million over five years, but increasing through to 2024 – to help boost the chances of the twenty proposed LNG terminal in BC. Given the Liberals have promised to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry there had been some hope the Trudeau government would cancel this tax cut. But on Nov. 23, 2015, the Vancouver Sun reported, “B.C. Premier Christy Clark has been assured by the new Liberal government that it won’t remove a tax break considered crucial for the nascent liquefied natural gas industry.”

It has been argued that since LNG terminals (and the fracking required to feed them) are carbon intensive that they are inconsistent with the Trudeau government’s commitment in the COP21 climate agreement, reached in Paris in Dec. 2015, to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If just five of the twenty proposed LNG terminals were to proceed in British Columbia, it has been estimated that they would release 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and the fracking and transport of the gas would generate another 15 million tonnes of GHG emissions.

The Council of Canadians has repeatedly supported opposition from the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation to the building of this terminal on their territory.

In Nov. 2015, we signed on to an open letter written by Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief Yahaan (Donnie Wesley) calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to reject the terminal proposed for Lax U’u’la (Lelu Island) and Flora Bank, and to cancel ongoing test-drilling at the site. In his letter Chief Yahaan wrote, “We ask that you respect the decision of our nation to say no to this project. We ask that you work with First Nations to find projects that are truly responsible and sustainable, and that do not threaten the very resources and landscapes that define us all.”

To send your message of opposition to the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal to the prime minister, you can e-mail him through this online form.

To read Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape’s first-hand account of her Nov. 2015 visit with Chief Yahaan at a camp on Lax U’u’la established to oppose the LNG terminal, please click here.