Reaching consensus about LNG in B.C. seems a long way off if the first day of the Legislature’s special summer session is any indication.
On the heels of the deal with LNG giant Petronas that was announced on July 6th, the Christy Clark administration has opened the session with a focus on putting legislation in place that invites large-scale investment in B.C.’s LNG industry. Not yet finalized, the Petronas agreement (the proposed multibillion-dollar Petronas-backed Pacific NorthWest LNG export plant at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert) represents the largest capital investment in B.C.’s history at an estimated $45.6 billion.
According to a B.C. government press release, at peak construction, the project will create 4,500 jobs, with 300 operational long-term jobs and 300 local spin-off jobs, and is expected to generate an estimated $8.6 billion in provincial revenue by 2030 through taxes and royalties.
Sounds rosy if that was the full picture. But a few important details appear to be missing from the Petronas deal — namely, clauses that guarantee B.C. workers will get those jobs, that local suppliers/services will be used, and that the company will adhere to changing environmental regulations. Furthermore, the deal protects the company from future tax increases for 25 years, locking it into already reduced income tax rates. Green party leader Andrew Weaver is calling it a “generational giveaway” and the tax rates “unacceptably low.” NDP leader John Horgan is vowing to vote against the legislation. Meanwhile, the Clark administration appears to be blinded by the cash cow, wiling to make concessions on jobs and the environment that the Australian government, which it claims to be emulating when it comes to LNG agreements because the country has a similarly-sized economy and has developed an LNG industry, hasn’t even made.
Then there are the serious environmental impacts of LNG extraction — the use of massive amounts of water used in fracking and the contamination of freshwater sources by the chemicals in fracking fluids… at a time when water is becoming an invaluable resource globally.
Getting a deal at any cost isn’t a deal, and B.C. still has time to correct its course and get onside with those progressive governments around the world that are trying to move away from using fossil fuels.