British Columbia

Lelu Island LNG environmental assessment questioned by 130 scientists

A group of more than 130 scientists is raising concerns about the science behind an environmental assessment of a proposed LNG terminal on the North Coast of British Columbia.

Scientists raise five areas of concern with the 'scientifically flawed' draft report

Lelu Island, on B.C.'s North Coast, is located at the mouth of the Skeena River, which is B.C.'s second largest salmon-bearing river. (Brian Huntington)

A group of more than 130 scientists is questioning the science behind an environmental assessment of a proposed LNG terminal on the North Coast of British Columbia.

The draft report by the Canadian Environmental Agency into the Pacific LNG development proposal for Flora Bank and Lelu Island was released last month.

In a letter to the federal government, the scientists raise five areas of concern with the "scientifically flawed" draft report, and ask the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to reject it.

A key concern is the effects the LNG export facility would have on the biology of the large estuary at the mouth of the Skeena River, which is one B.C.'s largest salmon bearing rivers.

"You couldn't find a worse location to develop in terms of risks to fish. The CEAA report does not acknowledge that this LNG proposal is located on critical habitat of Canada's second largest wild salmon watershed", said Charmaine Carr-Harris, of the Skeena Fisheries Commission.

'Flawed process'

Jonathan Moore, the chair of coastal science and management at Simon Fraser University, says the draft report is the product of a flawed process.

"This letter is not about being for or against LNG, the letter is about scientific integrity in decision-making," said Moore.

"The CEAA draft report for the Pacific Northwest LNG project is a symbol of what is wrong with environmental decision-making in Canada," says the letter, which is signed by fish and wildlife biologists from across Canada, the United States and  Norway.

The letter was also signed by Otto Langer, former chief of habitat assessment at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"The CEAA report is less than scientific, full of speculation and wishful thinking." he said in a statement released on Wednesday morning.

"I was one of the first salmon biologists to walk on Flora Bank in 1970. We were assessing a shipping port proposed for that area. The port was never built due to the overwhelming ecological importance of the area. It is ironic that some 46 years later that part of the estuary is faced again with this conflict."

"A natural eelgrass salmon habitat such as Flora Bank cannot survive if it is subjected to pile driving, dredging, lights, ship and dock noises, spills, etc. We must keep industry out of this area."

$36 billion investment

Pacific Northwest LNG, backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas, has proposed to build an LNG export terminal at Lelu Island.

The proposed project is billed as the largest private-sector investment in B.C.'s history, valued at $36 billion and estimated to create 4,500 construction jobs.

The project has also been approved by some of First Nations in the area.

In June 2015, Pacific NorthWest LNG, which is controlled by Malaysian energy giant Petronas, said it will confirm a final investment decision on the $36-billion project in northeast B.C. subject to two conditions.

The first condition is approval of the project development agreement by the provincial legislature, while the second condition is a positive environmental assessment by the federal government.


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