28 september 2016

Trudeau government on defensive after approving "carbon bomb"

By Elizabeth McSheffrey in News, Energy, National Observer | September 28th 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being criticized by political opponents for the "contradiction" inherent in promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while approving a monster LNG project that will increase them.

Less than 24 hours after the approval of a controversial $36-billion liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia, the Trudeau government — swooned over for its bold climate commitments in Paris last year — has found itself under attack for what critics label a major conflict between its environmental commitments and economic interests.

But while a number of critics warned the Pacific Northwest LNG project was an unmitigated environmental disaster, inside the House of Commons, the official opposition Conservatives accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being too tough on industry by "bogging down" the project with nearly 200 conditions.

"The headlines seemed good, but beyond the headlines was a lot of fine print, 190 conditions for the LNG project to move forward including — wait for it — more consultations after almost six years of consultations," said interim party leader Rona Ambrose during the daily question period on Wednesday.

"Thousands of unemployed workers and their families are depending on this project to go ahead. Approving the project is one thing. Getting it built is what matters. There are no jobs until there are shovels in the ground."

Trudeau responded by saying that his government was showing leadership through its decision to extend an environmental assessment of the project by a few months before it announced its decision, and that Conservative Party criticizes him both for going “too fast” and for “not going fast enough.”

"That is why we took our time," he explained. "We have made sure to do things right to demonstrate the community support, the Indigenous support, and the fact that world-class science is going on while we grow the economy and create jobs for the middle class. It is what Canadians expect. It is what this government is delivering."
Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Change Canada, carbon emissions, Christy Clark, Pacific Northwest LNG, Prince Rupert
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announces approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG project next to B.C.. Premier Christy Clark on Tues. Sept. 27, 2016 in Richmond, B.C. Photo by Canadian Press.

One of the largest emitters in Canada

The Petronas-led Pacific Northwest LNG project would be built on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C., directly within the province’s stunning Great Bear Rainforest. Upon completion, it would ship 19 million tonnes a year of liquefied gas to markets in Asia while pumping more than five million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually into the atmosphere.

That would make it one the largest single greenhouse gas emitters in Canada, according to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and is the reason many environmentalists have described the project as a "carbon bomb" and were up in arms over its approval.

The federal government says it has addressed these concerns through its 190 legally-binding conditions aimed at minimizing impacts to fish habitat, marine mammals, wetlands, migratory birds and human health. At the project announcement in Richmond, B.C. on Tuesday, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna added that it was the first project to include a maximum cap on greenhouse gas emissions and had been subject to "rigorous environmental assessment."

During a media scrum in Ottawa on Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr also attempted to silence concerns that approval of the controversial project was somehow indicative that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline — also in B.C. — would be approved as well. The fate of the hotly-debated oilsands expansion project will be announced by cabinet on Dec. 19, setting the stage for the next three years of environmental and energy policies.

“Kinder Morgan will be decided on its own merits,” Carr told reporters. “There is no linkage between these projects… Every project has its own nuance and its own set of challenges.”

Carr’s response wasn’t enough to satisfy critics who claim Pacific Northwest LNG’s approval alone violates environmental commitments as well as promises to renew nation-to-nation relations with First Nations and honour the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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