Whichever corporate advertising firm decided to put the word “Natural” in the name “Liquified Natural Gas” (LNG) unfortunately deserves an award. In these days when many politicians are more concerned with appearing as though they are addressing the emerging climate crisis rather than confronting it – an alternative “natural” fuel sounds like a great idea! Unfortunately, this is far from reality. LNG is still a dirty fossil fuel that relies on destroying the environment to be produced, transported and utilized. What's worse, the BC government is trying to subsidize the same corporations who have already been in the driver's seat of ruining the planet to do this in B.C. There are a lot of reasons to oppose the new LNG Canada mega-project, but below are seven of the most important.
To recap, here are the basics:
The BC New Democratic Party (BC NDP) government recently approved a 40 billion dollar LNG Canada liquefied natural-gas project. The LNG Canada project will see a pipeline carrying natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern BC to a new processing plant on the coast in Kitimat. There, the gas would be liquefied for overseas export. BC NDP Premier John Horgan could hardly contain his enthusiasm at the press conference, “Today LNG Canada has sent a signal to the world that British Columbia and Canada are open for business,” the BC Premier said. "I can't tell you how proud I am. I can't stop smiling."
1. Huge Climate Hit
As Fire This Time reported last month, “Most indicting of the terrible hypocrisy involved in approving the LNG project: both LNG Canada and the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion have a similar overall greenhouse gas footprint during their lifetime. One hundred million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for LNG Canada and 120 million tonnes for Trans Mountain - when considering extraction, transportation, processing and burning in other nations after export.
The NDP had previously committed to reducing provincial greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. They provided no information for how this LNG development could take place and still meet those commitments. It would require taking every gas-powered vehicle off the road to offset the new greenhouse gas emission.
This decision also came after global warming aggravated wildfires in BC have burned more than 1.2 million hectares of the province, eight times more than the 10-year-average.”
It's true that natural gas releases less carbon dioxide emissions than coal, but that's not the full story. Beyond the carbon emissions, LNG is made up mostly of methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas. It's impossible to stop leaks from happening, and as National Public Radio’s Nathan Rott described, “It can warm the atmosphere at nearly 30 times the rate of carbon dioxide.”
2. Fracking = Destruction
Dr. Margaret McGregor, MD, CCFP, MHSc, a member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), wrote an excellent article in the National Observer that outlines the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is how LNG is extracted.
“There is nothing natural about fracking, which involves drilling a shaft up to four kilometres down into the rock, then several more horizontally for up to three more kilometres. Large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into the rock, cracking and fissuring it to release gas deposits. During its lifetime, each fracking well consumes more than 90 million litres of clean water - the volume of 36 Olympic-size swimming pools. In fact, in parts of the United States drinking-water wells have dried up due to withdrawals for fracking.
Some of this water, sand and chemical slurry remains underground, while a proportion of it comes back up to the surface and must be dealt with. Much of it is stored in fracking ponds that are similar to tailings ponds from mining, which risk leakage and overflow after strong rains. Many of these chemicals such as benzene and cadmium are known to cause harm to human health. Research has also documented cases of clean water contamination from the fracking process. In summary, we are injecting a mixture of harmful and unstudied chemicals into the earth, using a process that risks contamination of clean water sources.
Fracking also releases pollutants and carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere. Studies demonstrate an increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases in people who live close to fracking operations, with higher rates of hospital admissions for heart, cancer, skin, nerve and bladder disease found nearby. More babies born with congenital heart defects and higher rates of pre-term births have also been observed among those who live close to fracking sites.”
What's more, it has been shown to cause a huge increase in earthquakes. Take this recent Business Insider article, “Parts of Oklahoma now have the same earthquake risk as California — and a new study found a scarily direct link to fracking”.
“Until recently, earthquakes in Oklahoma were few and far between. In 2010, the state experienced just 41 tremors. By comparison, Southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes each year.
Over the past few years, Oklahoma has weathered hundreds of significant quakes— more than 900 in 2015 alone, according to an academic journal, The Conversation — as have parts of several other Midwestern states. The region is replete with eons-old fault lines that went quiet long ago, but wastewater operations appear to be re-awakening some of those faults.”
3. Destroying the Fresh Water
The BC government also seems determined to give the LNG industry the green light for illegal dams already built to provide fresh water for fracking. The Narwhal points out, "The industry's growing need for fresh water has resulted in the construction of at least 90 unlicensed dams in northeast B.C."
As Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) wrote, “In a decision without precedent in its 25 years of existence, British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office has told Progress Energy that two massive unauthorized dams that it built will not have to undergo environmental assessments.
The decision comes after the company made an audacious request to the Environmental Assessment Office to have the two dams declared retroactively exempt from review — a request that was quietly granted by the province’s self-described neutral environmental regulator on July 17.”
The dams are already wreaking havoc. In August, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) issued a directive for oil and gas companies to suspend water withdrawals used for fracking in the Peace River and Liard watersheds due to drought condition.
4. Indigenous Rights Under Attack
The project is supported by elected councils of 25 First Nations communities along the pipeline route and the Haisla First Nation. However, the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs whose traditional territories the pipeline would be built on, reaffirmed their opposition to the project. The hereditary system has been tested in court several times and has helped form the laws most aboriginal rights and title cases have been based upon.
This has played out many times before, where the government pits the “elected” leaders of a governance system they imposed on Indigenous nations against the traditional leadership it attempts to minimize.
It's also a terrible situation to impose on impoverished Indigenous nations: support this project and get something, or oppose it and get nothing. Witset elected Chief Victor Jim said, “When CGL (Coastal Gas Link) came to our meeting, I asked them ‘Even if we don’t sign you guys are coming through, aren’t you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, we are.’ ”
What kind of choice is that?
The Dini Ze' (Highest Hereditary Chiefs) of the Wet'suwet'en Nation recently visited and reaffirmed their support of the Unist'ot'en Camp, which was built by Wet’suwet’en and supporters to stop pipeline construction on their territories. They declared, "We are the plaintiffs in a Supreme Court of Canada 1997 landmark case recognizing our Title and Rights - There will be no pipelines crossing our unceded territories - We will stop all proposed pipelines.”
The Unitstot’en Camp also issued this following appeal, “THE TIME IS NOW. We need your support. Yesterday TransCanada tried to enter Unist'ot'en territory to begin work on their Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline. They were respectfully turned away by Johnny Morris of the Gidimt'en Clan.”
5. Corporate Subsidies for Those Who Were Already Ruining the Planet
At a technical briefing for media, a senior BC government official put the province’s total financial incentives for the LNG Canada project at $5.35 billion. LNG Canada will get:
- A break on the carbon tax.
- The elimination of the LNG income tax.
- Cheaper electricity rates than those set by the previous Liberal administration.
- A PST exemption which means that LNG Canada will not have to pay provincial sales tax during the project’s five-year construction period.
- A natural gas tax credit which gives companies an additional three percent corporate income tax cut.
Not a bad deal for what will be B.C's largest carbon polluter run by some of the most profitable corporations in the world: Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsubishi Corp., Petronas, PetroChina Co. and Korean Gas Corp.
6. LNG: Good for Corporations, Bad for Working People
While there is a lot of talk about jobs for people in B.C. It's useful to look at the live example of Australia which went “all in” on LNG production in the last decade.
As reported by Mark Lee of the CCPA, “While Australia is now poised to become the world’s largest LNG exporter by 2020, 'success' turned into a political crisis by early 2017. Just as the taps were turned on for three massive new export projects on the country’s east coast near Gladstone, Queensland, prices shot up for Aussie households and businesses in major urban areas like Sydney. Local prices for gas at one point cost more than the gas is exported to Japan.
Richard Denniss, Chief Economist of The Australia Institute, argues that the hidden objective of LNG exporters all along was to raise domestic gas prices. Abundant gas supplies and low prices might have been good for Aussie households and manufacturers, but not for the gas industry, which wants to sell its gas for the highest price possible, wherever in the world that may be.”
He points out the striking similarities between the same sweet deals LNG corporations got in BC, and some more of the unexpected consequences for poor and working people,
“Similar to the BC framework, LNG majors in Australia can fully deduct all of their capital costs before they pay federal resource rent taxes, meaning that cost overruns are passed on to the public sector in the form of reduced revenues. Such cost overruns are common in the LNG industry. Australia’s recent LNG projects have experienced $50 billion in cost overruns, the most legendary being the Gorgon project in Western Australia, which was $20 billion over budget and cost $54 billion to build.
The Sydney Morning Herald writes that the city of Gladstone has seen a boom and bust due to a temporary surge of workers to build three LNG plants in the area. During the boom housing became unaffordable to locals and seniors and professionals were forced to move away. After a surge of 14,500 construction jobs for a few years, in a town of 60,000, the completed LNG terminals now only provide 500 permanent jobs.”
So who is getting the better deal? The corporations who get all of the subsidies, or the people who get a short-term construction boom that makes their town unaffordable, followed by relatively minimal permanent jobs and higher domestic gas prices?
7. They Get the Boom; We Get the Bust
The environmental case is clear. Massive new fossil-fuel projects make it impossible to meet the carbon reduction targets the scientific consensus is telling us we need to enact to keep the planet inhabitable. It's also obvious that the BC government is trying to side-step very real concerns about Indigenous Rights and Title, which they previously committed to upholding. What's more, is that this project would follow the same trajectory as every other massive resource extraction project. The corporations get all of the subsidies and profits of the short-term“boom” and poor and working people are left with all of the poverty and devastated communities of the “bust.” Fundamentally this is the way capitalism works. We demand a better life. We deserve a better world. We demand system change.
No More LNG in BC!
People and Planet Before LNG, Pipelines and Profits
Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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