On March 25 2019 the BC NDP government passed a law conceding tax exemptions and commitments to low electricity prices to the industry. The NDP has, despite challenging the previous Liberals government on their concessions to the PETRONAS Lelu Island LNG initiative, in fact often foreshadowed their present pro-LNG position. According to Carol Linnitt this NDP concession amounts to an incentive package worth an estimated $5.35 billion (I presume this is calculated over the 40 year accounting period being used in appraising this development) to the LNG Canada consortium of which PETRONAS itself is a 25% stake-holder.
Although PETRONAS’ own $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG processing and shipping terminal on Lelu Island was aborted in the face of Lax Kwa’laams opposition and a collapsing market, this Malaysian crown corporation has persisted with its interest in downstream LNG development in British Columbia. Upstream, PETRONAS is presently one of the largest producers of natural gas in the province and, according to Ben Parfitt, it is the “the single-largest subsurface rights holder of natural gas assets in Northeast B.C.” While PETRONAS is well set for prominence both upstream and downstream in the BC LNG industry it, there is a blockage for them midstream. Development of the connecting Coastal Gaslink pipeline has been retarded by determined resistance from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, through whose territory in must pass.
Image Modified from: https://www.bcogc.ca/node/15405/download
The 20-million-gallon Lily Dam, one of the two unlicensed dams for which Progress Energy received retroactive exemption from environmental review. Photo by Ben Parfitt.
In an earlier post I had noted that Progress Energy, now known as PETRONAS Canada had been accused of building two massive unlicensed dams in violation of provincial environmental regulations. It has since been reported that that British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) allowed these massive unauthorized dams to be exempt from environmental assessments. According to Ben Parfaitt in Policy Note these dams had previously been described in internal documents of the very same EAO as being ‘illegal works’. This is a disturbing precedent because there are other unlicensed dams in the gas fields of Northern BC that stand to be given the same kind of retrospective exemption. This move by the EAO is indicative of the dominance of corporate interests generally, and PETRONAS’ imperatives in particular, within the provincial administrative process.
According to the Globe and Mail, the B.C. Sierra Club, which is a conservation group, is suing the British Columbia government to get these retrospective exemptions revoked. Olivia French, the lawyer representing the B.C. Sierra Club has stated that “Progress Energy acted with a bit of disregard for B.C.’s laws — one of those typical, ‘Ask for forgiveness, not for permission’ sort of positions.” As Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau has said that the EAO’s decision to grant Progress’s extraordinary request for retrospective exemption fuels public distrust of the relationship between government and the powerful industries it regulates.
Roads and fracking drill pads slice up the scenery in northeastern BC (2013)
In June 2018, Centre forCPA-BC Resource Policy Analyst Ben Parfitt made a presentation to British Columbia’s Scientific Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel in the context of rising provincial LNG industry and attendant concerns about general health and safety, and specifically the well being of Indigenous Peoples and communities.
Parfitt’s presentation included the following findings:
- at least 92 dams were built in northeast BC without the companies that built them first obtaining the required licences and authorizations.
- a large number of drilled and fracked gas wells in one remote operating area in northeast BC leaked methane gas, potentially contaminating groundwater.
- increased water use at more fracking sites means more earthquakes.
- contrary to the Province’s adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the fracking operations in BC have taken place without the “free, prior and informed consent” of First Nations.