VICTORIA - British Columbia's pledge to develop the world's cleanest liquefied natural gas plants looks hazy to an environmental organization that says the province appears to be prepared to allow oil and gas companies to belch carbon emissions three-times higher than those in Australia and Norway.
A report released Monday by Clean Energy Canada, an affiliate of Tides Canada, warns that without B.C. government policy leadership, LNG produced in the province could emit more than three-times the carbon produced at other plants around the world.
"We conclude that this leadership gap can be closed if the government creates the policy environment that both directs and incentivizes the energy industry to employ a mix of strategies and technologies proven to drive carbon pollution down all the way across the life cycle of LNG production," states the report entitled "The Cleanest LNG in the World?"
But B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said the report may be making assumptions on government directions before they are officially decided.
Polak said she is under directions from Premier Christy Clark to develop the cleanest LNG industry and challenging negotiations are underway that take into account the province's goal to be a world environmental leader without adversely affecting the bottom line of the oil and gas firms who want to invest in the province.
Clark's Liberals have said LNG development represents a trillion-dollar economic opportunity that could create 100,000 jobs.
"They've outlined a whole number of ways in which we can address the challenges posed by LNG development and greenhouse gases," said Polak about the report.
"For our part, we know that that's part of the balancing that we need to do in our negotiations with the proponents because, of course, we have to balance our interest in protecting the environment with the viability of their projects, and so we have to take a look at what's possible for them and what hits their bottom line."
B.C.'s environmental goals include the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target Act of 2007 that put into law the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. The government has been steadfast in its pledge to meet those targets.
Clean Energy Canada spokeswoman Merran Smith said the emissions targets are already in jeopardy, but increased carbon emissions from proposed LNG makes the reduction target virtually impossible to achieve.
She said the Clean Energy Canada report focused on the carbon footprint that could be left from the proposed B.C. LNG plants if the government allows the plants and gas-field operations to be powered by natural gas as opposed to electricity, which is considered clean and renewable.
"There's really no details on what does that mean, cleanest energy in the world," she said. "What the companies are proposing to do in B.C. would be three times dirtier than the existing cleanest LNG in the world."
Smith said most of the companies proposing LNG developments in B.C. are putting forward plans to power their operations with natural gas.
Earlier, Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman said at least two plants were proposing to run part of their operations with electricity. There are currently about a half dozen LNG plant proposals in B.C.
Smith said B.C. could reach its goal of the cleanest LNG industry in the world if electricity was used to power the proposed LNG plants on the northwest coast and the gas fields in northeastern B.C. She said gas companies should also move to carbon capture technology that involves storing carbon dioxide emissions underground.
"These technologies are proven and in places like Australia and Norway the government mandated them," said Smith.
Clark has said the Liberals will introduce legislation next spring that includes a taxation policy and regulations relating to LNG developments.
Polak said she was not about to speculate about the environmental rules that will be included in that legislation.
But the government did offer a package royalty credits of almost $116 million Monday to help companies build roads and pipelines for the natural gas industry in the province's northeast.
The government said the royalty credits will go towards 12 new infrastructure projects in northeast B.C., that will eventually advance the growth of LNG development in B.C.
Last week, Clark offered municipal leaders from northwest B.C. concerned about an LNG-driven population boom $150,000 to conduct studies on their hospital, school, sewer, road, bridge and social needs.
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