Environmental agency seeks public comments on proposed LNG plant in B.C.

VANCOUVER – A multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project proposed for B.C.’s north coast is inching its way through the environmental approval process.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced Wednesday that a 30-day public comment period for the Pacific NorthWest LNG project will begin April 2 and end May 1.

The announcement follows last month’s publication of an environmental impact statement that predicts the project’s effects on air quality would not be significant, but it would increase the province’s greenhouse-gas emissions annually by more than eight per cent.

Agency spokeswoman Karen Fish said in an email that once the 30-day period is over, officials will consider the feedback and prepare a draft environmental assessment report.

“This report will set out the agency’s conclusions and recommendations regarding the potential environmental effects of the project, the proposed mitigation measures, and the significance of any remaining adverse environmental effects,” she said.

She said a fourth and final public comment period on the draft environmental assessment report will be announced at a later date, after which the agency will finalize the document and submit it to government.

If approved, the facility would be built near the city of Prince Rupert and will convert natural gas, transported by pipeline from northeast B.C. into LNG before export to Asian markets.

The company estimates the plant will produce as much as 19.2 million tonnes of LNG annually.

In December, the National Energy Board granted Pacific NorthWest LNG Ltd. and three other companies 25-year export licences, subject to final government review.

Still, the issue of greenhouse gas emissions has at times dominated public discussion about LNG.

In February, Premier Christy Clark told state senators in California that the industry will be the biggest step B.C. has taken to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and growing its economy responsibly.

Previously, she also suggested hitting the government’s targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one third by 2020 may be a challenge if the LNG industry expands.

In fact, the environmental impact statement published in February states the Pacific NorthWest LNG project is expected to increase emission totals by 8.5 per cent provincially and 0.75 per cent nationally.

“The majority of project GHG emissions will originate from the combustion of fuel, that will be subject to the BC carbon tax,” says the document.

Last June, the company’s vice-president said it was prepared to invest between $9 and $11 billion in two LNG plants.

The Malaysian oil-and-gas company Petroas owns 90 per cent of the company. Minority shareholders include the Japan Petroleum Exploration Company and PetroleumBrunei.