An artist's rendering of the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert, B.C., showing a suspension bridge past Flora Bank. Photo: Pacific NorthWest LNG

By Matt Meuse
30 May 2016

(CBC News) – International climate change experts have decried plans for a liquified natural gas industry in B.C., but Environment Minister Mary Polak says LNG has a key role to play as a transition fuel — and that those experts haven't taken a wide enough view of the industry.

In a letter addressed to federal environment minister Catherine McKenna, 90 scientists and policy experts said the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert would make it "virtually impossible" for B.C. to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets.

But Polak said the letter's authors have taken a myopic view of the situation and that the provincial government would be announcing a number of GHG reduction measures later this month.

"By their own admission in the letter, they say that they have based their estimates on no new actions in terms of climate," Polak told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"Their assumption from the beginning doesn't meet with reality." [more]

B.C. environment minister says climate scientists' letter 'doesn't meet with reality'

Dear: Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

cc: Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources
Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

From:  International Climate Change Scientists and Climate Policy Experts

Date:  26 May 2016

Re:  Unjustified adverse greenhouse gas impacts of the Pacific Northwest LNG proposal.

We the undersigned scientists and climate experts request that you reject the proposed Pacific Northwest (PNW) LNG project due its significant adverse environmental effects from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. PNW LNG would be one of the single largest point source emitters in Canada. When upstream emissions1 are added to facility emissions2, the project would add between 18.5 and 22.5% to British Columbia’s (BC) total GHG emissions. This would make it virtually impossible for BC to meet its GHG emission reduction targets, and would undermine Canada’s international climate change commitments. As scientists and climate experts, we are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change in this country and abroad. We conclude:

  • The project poses serious risks to climate change targets. The GHG emissions from the project and the associated upstream activities (fracking, processing, transport, etc.) are significant and represent material challenges to BC and Canada towards meeting their climate change targets. The challenges to BC and Canada’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions will be exacerbated because of two issues: 1) the international agreement on climate change reached in Paris will require Canada to increase its ambition to reduce GHG emissions over time (and this requirement is embedded within the Vancouver Declaration signed by the Prime Minister and the premiers on March 3); and 2) the methane emissions from upstream gas included in the draft Environmental Assessment report likely underestimate the true contribution of emissions from the project (see below). Importantly, the Proponent’s analysis of the Canadian environmental policy context is no longer accurate; Canada has renewed its commitment to reducing GHG emissions to 200 million tonnes below current levels by 2030.
  • GHG emissions from the project are likely underestimated. The GHG emissions reported by PNW LNG and included in CEAA’s draft assessment2 underestimate the total emissions released over the full life cycle of the project. For example, the quantification of methane emissions from upstream extraction and transportation activities included in the draft Environmental Assessment report are predicated based on a leakage rate of ~ 0.28%, which has not been verified by field studies. In contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses a methane emissions rate of 1.33% for comparable processes of the supply chain (i.e., production, processing, and transmission)3. A more conservative estimate of methane leakage should have been included in the proponent’s impact assessment, and serves to grossly underestimate the total GHG emissions from the project.
  • There is inadequate climate policy to reduce impacts for the project. The climate change policies currently in place are not adequate to require better practices and get BC and Canada  on track for their climate change commitments. The ongoing freeze in BC’s carbon tax and exemptions in carbon tax coverage for non-combustion emissions, such as methane venting and leakage, fundamentally undermine the province’s ability to encourage reductions in GHG emissions from the project and associated extraction activities.
  • There is no evidence that LNG from the project will replace coal in Asia. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) acknowledged that the use of natural gas could potentially reduce GHG emissions internationally if it replaces the consumption of coal and oil. The Agency, however, ultimately rejected this argument because it was “beyond the scope of the EA for the Project”. LNG will also likely displace nuclear power, renewables, and natural gas from other sources in many importing countries. There are many locations where LNG consumption would be additional to coal consumption, instead of replacing it4. Importantly, GHG emissions from fracking, transport, liquefaction, and regasification significantly reduce LNG’s GHG benefits over coal5,6.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has found that the carbon emissions of the proposed PNW LNG terminal and associated upstream natural gas development would be “high in magnitude, continuous, irreversible and global in extent.” (p.39)2. Their research finds the project will emit at least 11.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year, not including downstream emissions when the gas is burned in Asia. Honouring the commitment Canada made in Paris to limit global warming to well below 2.0 degrees above pre-industrial levels will require a massive effort to reduce emissions. We must begin by rejecting plans that would increase GHG emissions and lock us in fossil fuel extraction for decades to come. We therefore request that you withhold the environmental assessment certificate for PNW LNG, and take urgent action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.


[signed by 90 scientists and policy experts]


1 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). 2016. Pacific Northwest LNG Review of Related Upstream Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Estimates.
2 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). 2016. Pacific Northwest LNG draft environmental assessment report.
3 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2010. Greenhouse gas emissions reporting from the petroleum and natural gas industry. Background technical support document.
4 Horne, M., and MacNab, J. 2014. Liquefied Natural Gas and Climate Change: The Global Context. Report written for the Pembina Institute.
5 McJeon, H., Edmonds, J., Bauer, N., Clarke, L., Fisher, B., Flannery, B.P., Hilaire, J., Krey, V., Marangoni, G., Mi, R., Riahi, K., Rogner, H., and Tavoni, M. 2014. Limited impact on decadal-scale climate change from increased use of natural gas. Nature 514: 482-285.
6 Davis, S.J., and Shearer, C. 2014. Climate change: a crack in the natural-gas bridge. Nature 514: 436-437.

Unjustified adverse greenhouse gas impacts of the Pacific Northwest LNG proposal



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