British Columbia

LNG project's 190 conditions 'not onerous,' says environmental assessment expert

The federal government approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG project with 190 conditions. Kevin Hanna, director of the Centre for Environmental Assessment Research at UBC Okanagan, explains what those conditions mean for the project.

Kevin Hanna explains the environmental assessment process and how the conditions were chosen

The federal government approved the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia with 190 legally-binding conditions on Sept. 27, 2016. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

The 190 legally-binding conditions the federal government attached to its approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project might seem like a lot, but one expert says that number is not surprising for a project of this size and complexity.

The proposed project — which would move natural gas by pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to a terminal near Prince Rupert — was approved on Tuesday.

Kevin Hanna, director for the Centre for Environmental Assessment Research at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, says 100 to 200 conditions are common for major projects undergoing environmental assessment.

Hanna told Daybreak North despite misconceptions, conditions from an environmental assessment are not designed to stop development.

"They are intended to ensure that ... we do as much as we possibly can to improve the quality of the project and the way that it operates," he explained.

Environmentalists and other opponents have long decried the liquefied natural gas project for its environmental impact, arguing it would increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Protesters at an LNG career fair in Kamloops, B.C. Opponents of the LNG project hope some of the conditions will stop or delay the project.

Many are now hoping the conditions will be too difficult for project proponents to meet.

Hanna said that would be unlikely.

"There's nothing in that list of conditions that I think are eyebrow-raising in terms of being really onerous in terms of a designer-cost perspective," he said.

Enforcing conditions

It will be challenging, he said, to make sure all the conditions are properly met if the project goes forward — especially since the federal level doesn't have dedicated compliance and enforcement personnel.

Hanna said it helps that some of the conditions are for monitoring and observation and will require accompanying personnel.

The conditions can be adapted, he added.

"Are the conditions adequate enough to truly minimize or mitigate impacts on the environment, either in the short term and long term? In some instances, we're estimating. We can make adjustments during the process if necessary."

The Pacific NorthWest LNG project is backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas.

With files from Daybreak North

To listen to the segment, click on the link labelled Pacific NorthWest LNG's 190 conditions: an explainer