Last week the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) announced it was taking a careful approach to liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in the region.
The RDBN issued a press release saying the pipeline construction process has the potential to “negatively impact local communities” and place a burden on local infrastructure and services.
While the provincial government is placing its bets on LNG development, the RDBN is saying there are “too many unanswered questions” regarding the location, operation, and servicing of the large work camps to be built in the area. In addition, the RDBN says there is “inadequate commitment to utilize wood fibre cut from the pipeline routes, and there is no long-term commitment to support invasive plant management.” Furthermore, the RDBN points out that emergency management “remains uncoordinated.”
Meanwhile premier Christy Clark appears to be extremely confident in the province’s LNG development. The province says developing LNG export potential in B.C. will generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in new investment. There are currently 20 LNG proposals across the province involving over 30 investment partners in various stages of development. The province says that if just five LNG projects are built, it could contribute more than $1 trillion to the provincial economy over the next 30 years.
But will this development come at the expense of our lands, rivers and wildlife? Will it bring all the revenue the provincial government is promising? Will it be worth it? In the end, we could be risking the most precious thing we have – the place we live in.
David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada and the U.S. for four decades. In his recent study ‘A clear look at B.C. LNG,” Hughes says the B.C. government’s claims of available gas supplies for export are “greatly exaggerated.”
He also says the province is understating the amount and intensity of land disturbance and water consumption in the development of upstream supply for LNG exports.
The extraction of natural gas – fracking – requires a great amount of water, chemicals and other additives. According to Hughes, in the B.C. government’s proposed export target, water consumed in the ramp-up phase of drilling would equal about 22,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools per year, or about half of the annual consumption of Vancouver or Calgary.
Then, of course, towns that are enduring fracking also have to worry about earthquakes. On June 13, a 4.4 earthquake rocked the oil and gas Town of Fox Creek, Alberta. The June 13 earthquake wasn’t the first and there’s a chance it won’t be the last. According to a Global News story published in June 2015, Natural Resources Canada recorded over 20 earthquakes in the region of magnitude three or greater and over 80 of magnitude two or greater since Nov. 2013. The June 13 earthquake was the second since January that was magnitude four or greater.
The provincial government has been selling the idea of LNG as “clean energy.” However, Hughes says exporting B.C. LNG will not reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. From wellhead to final combustion, there are substantial leakages of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, he says. Given this, liquefied fracked gas from B.C. actually has GHG emission rates similar to coal.
I honestly don’t know if LNG will be the solution to any of our problems, but I do know this: we need to be more skeptical, especially when risking our lands, rivers and wildlife. So I certainly applaud the RDBN’s recently announced approach to LNG.
Now is the time to ask the tough questions, to be skeptical and to think about the long term.