The Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG consortium has edged closer to a sanctioning decision, with federal scientists determining the project poses little environmental risk.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, dealing with one of the most contentious points facing the project, said in a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency that the impact on fish and fish habitat of a planned suspension bridge and pier at the liquefaction plant and tanker terminal near Prince Rupert could have a “low potential (to cause) significant adverse effects.”
The environmental agency is due to issue a final recommendation on Pacific NorthWest this spring, about three years after drawn-out regulatory hearings that involved frequent delays.
The partnership has encountered constant opposition from environmentalists and the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation of northwestern British Columbia, with lingering threats of further court action if the project is authorized.
The scientists have outlined work they say is necessary to protect marine life and habitat, including a long-term monitoring program and steps to mitigate harm to fish habitat in the area of Lelu Island, where the C$11.4 billion terminal will be built, plus other efforts to protect the Skeena River estuary which is vital to salmon stocks.
In their letter the scientists acknowledged the “effort and commitment of the proponent to undertake a robust and science-based 3D modeling exercise to assist in predicting effects to habitat in and around the project.”
That followed a letter by Natural Resources Canada earlier in January which described the consortium’s scientific studies as rigorous, giving it “confidence in the proponent’s conclusions.”
That federal department said the impact of the planned dock-related facilities would be “localized, resulting in a low risk to commercial, recreation and aboriginal fisheries.”
Greg Horne, energy coordinator with the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, said the federal findings ignored peer-review science published by the Lax Kw’alaams science team and was disrespectful to the First Nation.
However, the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority, formed last July by five aboriginal communities, said there could be an acceptable way to export LNG from Lelu Island.
Shell makes progressSeparately, the Shell-led LNG Canada consortium has made progress in efforts to win over First Nations to the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline project by TransCanada which is planned to deliver feedstock gas from northeastern British Columbia to the terminal site at Kitimat.
TransCanada said it has signed long-term project agreements with the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation and West Moberly First Nations, increasing to 11 its pacts with aboriginal communities along the pipeline route.
Coastal GasLink President Rick Gateman said “early and consistent engagement with First Nations” established trust and laid the groundwork for the benefits agreements which cover job skills training, employment and the use of aboriginal businesses in contracting work.
Coastal GasLink estimated that more than a quarter of the more than 330,000 hours of fieldwork on the pipeline so far has been conducted by aboriginal people.
It said about 32 percent of the C$4.8 billion of capital work will be spent locally in British Columbia with economic benefits including more than 2,000 jobs during construction, leading to C$20 million in annual property tax.
The 400-mile pipeline is designed to carry 4 billion cubic feet per day of gas from the Montney and Horn River regions, with Coastal GasLink a key element of its overall C$13 billion capital growth plan for gas pipelines.