Leaders of the Gitga'at First Nation of Hartley Bay expressed particular concern Friday over proposed liquid natural gas plants to be built in Kitimat, saying the provincial projects are not as green as officials would like the public to believe.
At least one of the plants will burn natural gas to generate power, producing nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide that will make their way downwind to their community.
They also raised concerns about the increase in tanker traffic into Kitimat.
"The Douglas Channel is our bread and butter," said Arnold Clifton, chief councillor of the community best known for rescuing passengers from the Queen of the North ferry after it ran aground six years ago.
The Gitga'at oppose the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline because of the increase in tanker traffic, but village council member Marvin Robinson said the band is not saying No to the LNG project.
They want information that will allow the band and other members of the public to make an informed decision about the LNG plan and the cumulative effects of the many other projects in the works for coastal B.C., he said.
"I'm having a hard time keeping up to the speed of some of this commercial activity that is planned for the north," Robinson said. "To us, it's all risk and there isn't much benefit to this community."
Council member Kyle Clifton said one project on its own may not have much impact.
"But when you add them up and they get over a thousand ships a year... it will be a pretty significant change to our lifestyle no matter if there's an accident or not," he said.
Liquified natural gas has been cooled to a liquid state so that can be transported overseas via tankers. There is huge demand for LNG in Asia, where prices are significantly higher than in the North American market.
Environment Minister Terry Lake said LNG reduces the use of more carbon-intense fuels in Asia, but the province wants to produce it in a way that reduces greenhouse gases at home.
B.C. will have the first LNG plant powered by clean energy, he said.
"The industry knows and we are working with them to make sure that we reduce the greenhouse gas impacts as much as possible while we look at this opportunity for British Columbians for economic development, job creation and also contributing, of course, to the many social services that we provide as government," Lake said.
Last summer Premier Christy Clark announced changes in provincial regulations to redefine the natural gas to be used in the plant as "clean energy," bringing it into compliance with the province's Clean Energy Act.
Under the legislation, the province is supposed to reduce carbon emissions 33 per cent by 2020 — the year the province hopes to have all three plants operational.
The David Suzuki Foundation released a report earlier this week that found B.C. cannot achieve legislated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if it begins exporting LNG.
The report said the province does not have conventional natural gas reserves to meet its export goals, and will increasingly rely on the more resource-intensive and controversial method of fracking. That involves freeing gas by fracturing subterranean rock with high-pressure injections of water and chemicals.
Not all First Nations oppose the LNG plan.
The province has an agreement with the Haisla First Nation to purchase or lease the land for the development and allow the Haisla to participate in the project.
The Liberal government has said the LNG plants will contribute $2 billion annually to provincial revenues.
— By Dene Moore in Vancouver —