The B.C. government will redefine natural gas as a clean energy source – but only if it's used to generate power for liquefied natural gas in northern B.C, says Premier Christy Clark.
"I think there is a really strong recognition among the established environmental groups that because it's offsetting really dirty power elsewhere there's a really positive net impact," said Clark.
Clark made the announcement at a conference of energy sector companies on Thursday.
The plants, planned for Kitimat, B.C., as early as 2017, will use tremendous amount of electricity, more than what is currently produced by BC Hydro.
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce says the move will be a boost to the energy industry and means BC Hydro, public producers or even the liquiefied natural gas plants themselves could generate power to fuel LNG operations.
Province backing off greenhouse gas goals, say critics
But critics are disappointed by the move because they say the government is moving away from its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's clearly going to increase global warming pollution in British Columbia, which will take us further away from our laws that really did show lot of leadership when it comes to the issue of climate change," said Ian Bruce, the David Suzuki Foundation's clean energy and climate change specialist.
Professor Marc Jaccard of Simon Fraser University agrees, saying simply calling a fossil fuel "clean" doesn't make it so.
"I believe this shift, this new policy direction is a complete betrayal of the families Christy Clark says she cares about."
In 2010 the province's new Clean Energy Act outlined 16 objectives, including a plan to "to generate at least 93 per cent of the electricity in British Columbia from clean or renewable resources and to build the infrastructure necessary to transmit that electricity."
It went on to say that " 'clean or renewable resource' means biomass, biogas, geothermal heat, hydro, solar, ocean, wind or any other prescribed resource."
Natural gas was not included as a clean energy source.