VICTORIA - New legislation introduced in British Columbia requires liquefied natural gas plants to meet emission standards or face penalties and makes the industry the cleanest in the world, says Environment Minister Mary Polak.
Polak tabled the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act on Monday, saying it will set the province's emission benchmark at 0.16 tonnes of carbon dioxide for each tonne of LNG produced, which is lower than any other LNG facility in the world.
She said it will test legislated GHG emission targets, which have been set at one-third below 2007 levels by 2020, and the province will also consider cutting emissions in sectors such as transportation and construction.
"It is going to be a challenge, no question," she said. "Sure, it's going to be really difficult but it means we're going to have to be drilling down more and more on the everyday things that we can do to reduce GHG emissions."
Reaction to the legislation from industry and environmental groups was lukewarm, and Opposition politicians labelled the proposed law an attempt to hoodwink British Columbians about the amount of pollution the plants will emit.
"Saying one thing and doing another, where they claim that day is night and night is day, where they claim that brown is green and that standing up for the environment is what they're doing," said Opposition New Democrat environment critic Chandra Herbert.
Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver called legislation a Wild West law that will be a laughing stock in environmental circles worldwide because the numbers don't add up.
"It's like playing World Cup soccer and B.C. has a qualifying process that actually doesn't listen to FIFA rules," he said.
Polak said the government estimates that five LNG plants in B.C. will create 13 million tonnes of GHG emissions, adding to the province's current annual GHG emissions of 62 million tonnes.
LNG industry spokesman David Keane said the benchmarks bring clarity to environmental questions that companies may have, but many are still not ready to make final investment decisions.
He said the industry is waiting for Tuesday's expected introduction of the government's LNG income-tax legislation.
"In terms of looking at all of the costs that we incur, our industry is going to be paying the LNG tax, the carbon tax, purchasing carbon offsets, paying royalties, PST, GST, payroll taxes, municipal taxes and corporate income taxes at both the federal and provincial levels," Keane said.
Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada, said the B.C. legislation is a good start but won't, on its own, lead to the "cleanest LNG in the world" as promised by the Liberals.
Polak said LNG facilities with emissions below the set benchmark will receive credits they can sell. Companies can buy carbon offsets or invest in a technology fund to meet their target. Those that don't meet their targets could face fines of up to $1.5 million and up to two years in jail.
The B.C. benchmark includes all GHG emissions from when the gas enters an LNG facility until it is exported and is lower than any comparable marker in Norway, Australia and the United States.
"The 0.16 benchmark sets a new, recognized global standard for LNG facilities," said a statement from the Environment Ministry.
Premier Christy Clark calls the proposed LNG industry a worldwide pollution fighter because it will replace dirty coal with cleaner-burning natural gas in Asian countries, especially China.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong was set to introduce legislation on Tuesday that outlines the government's plans to tax the LNG industry.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly reported that emissions limit starts when gas is extracted from the ground.
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