British Columbia

Proposed LNG project would emit 360 million metric tonnes of CO2, expert warns

An environmental protection group fighting to overturn federal approval of a $36-billion LNG project in B.C. says the project will hurt Canada's chance of hitting climate far more than forecast, with a 360 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifetime.

Culmulative 30-year emissions would eat up 2.5% to 11% of Canada's carbon budget, critics say

The massive plant near Prince Rupert B.C. would contribute $156-million to B.C.'s economy, according to Pacific NorthWest LNG. (Pacific NorthWest LNG)

An environmental protection group fighting to overturn federal approval of a $36-billion LNG project in B.C. says it will hurt Canada's chance of hitting climate change targets far more than forecast, with a 360 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions over its lifetime.

Earlier this year, a group of international climate change experts spoke out against the Prince Rupert B.C., project, warning it would become one of Canada's top greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters if built, making it impossible for B.C. to meet GHG emissions targets.

In a Vancouver federal courtroom Tuesday,  the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust said the PacificNorthWest LNG's (PNW LNG) proposal to build a natural gas liquefaction and export terminal on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert B.C., not only failed to assess salmon habitat but ignored the real impact on climate over a 30-year span.

An image from a promotional video shows an LNG tanker filling up at the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG facility near Prince Rupert, B.C. (Prince Rupert Gas Tranmission Project)

SkeenaWild is one of the groups fighting to have the project's federal environmental assessment certificate overturned in court.

Its legal team is trying to put forth expert evidence that the project's long-term pollution impact was ignored.

PNW LNG says the facility would be one of the "world's cleanest." 

But Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld, an associate professor of geography at Simon Fraser University, who has worked on carbon budgets and studied climate change irreversibility worldwide, says the cumulative effects of the project's greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, were underestimated.

She calculates emissions of CO2 will hit 360-million metric tonnes, using up "between 2.5 per cent and 11 per cent of Canada's all time carbon budget, designed to limit warming to 2 C."

The carbon budget is the amount of CO2 that can be emitted by Canada to keep the global temperature rise below 2 C. If Canada were to emit a half-billion tonnes each year, the country's budget would run out in about seven years.

Catherine McKenna, left, federal minister of environment and climate change, announces the approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project at the Sea Island Coast Guard base, in Richmond, B.C., as Premier Christy Clark looks on. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Maximilian Kniewasser, the second person to put forward by the petitioners as an expert, is from the Pembina Institute in Whistler B.C. He contends  the review failed to consider the beneficial emissions-lowering potential of powering the project by electricity instead of gas.

A letter from 90 scientists to Canada's environment minister last March warned that the project would set Canada's goals on climate change back, making it "virtually impossible" to meet GHG emission reduction targets.

Meanwhile, the facility is touted by the company as the cleanest of its type on the planet, "that would utilize proven, leading-edge technologies for liquefaction to minimize carbon output."

The project is one of the largest private-sector investments in B.C.'s history, estimated to create 4,500 construction jobs, and announced after Christy Clark ran on a promise to develop the provinces LNG industry during the 2013 election.

Calls to the federal and provincials ministries have not been returned. PNW LNG refused comment, as the matter is before the courts.

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)