No new fossil fuel projects?  British Columbia Premier David Eby's looming test

No new fossil fuel projects? British Columbia Premier David Eby’s looming test

FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG plant is located on Tilbury Island in Delta, British Columbia. The industrial site is in a floodplain along the south arm of the Fraser River.FortisBC/Handout

It felt like a firm commitment. “We can’t keep building fossil fuel infrastructure and meeting our climate goals,” David Eby said as he outlined his agenda weeks before he was sworn in as BC’s new premier.

It was late October and Mr. Eby had just taken over as leader of the ruling New Democratic Party in British Columbia, after rebuffing a leadership challenge from climate activist Anjali Appadurai. He was trying to woo his supporters by promising to take a stand against investments that would make it harder for the province to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

But saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure means stifling an ever-growing sector of the provincial economy – growth that BC’s NDP government had nurtured for the five years before Mr. Eby became leader. This year, natural gas royalties alone are expected to bring $2.4 billion to the provincial government.

The oil and gas industry, chilled by Mr. Eby’s early remarks, does not know what to expect now. But Mr Eby has not been as definitive as Prime Minister as he was when he was a successful candidate, and his commitment to climate action will be tested in the weeks to come.

That’s because there are billions of dollars of new fossil fuel projects and extensions of existing ones on the books.

By the time Mr Eby took his seat in the Legislature as Prime Minister on November 21, a month had passed since he pledged to thwart expanding fossil fuel development . Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau took the opportunity to ask him for clarification during question period. Mr. Eby dodged his questions.

“On the specific issue of oil and gas emissions, we have very clear legislative targets for 2030 and 2050. Any proposed project must fall within those targets,” he told the legislature.

The first decision that will come to Mr. Eby’s desk from this file will be on a proposed new berth for FortisBC’s planned expansion of its Tilbury Island liquefied natural gas facility, known as Tilbury LNG. Members of his cabinet are expected to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to proceed with construction. (A cabinet reshuffle is scheduled for Dec. 7, so the province could delay its decision on the project by sending proponents a few more questions.)

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said in an interview last week that Eby’s public remarks about fossil fuel infrastructure didn’t make it into a directive. Politics.

For now, the province’s climate action policy is guided by a government plan called CleanBC. It includes the first phase of the LNG Canada project, an $18 billion export terminal under construction in Kitimat, British Columbia, which is expected to begin shipping liquefied natural gas to Asia in 2025. Once completed, it will be Canada’s first LNG export terminal.

CleanBC is expected to reduce the province’s climate change emissions by 40% by the end of this decade. A government report released Nov. 23 shows the province has made little progress to date.

Since the government set emissions targets in 2007, it has only reduced net greenhouse gas emissions by 3%, according to the most recent information available. British Columbia’s net emissions were 63.5 million tonnes. Once in operation, the first phase of LNG Canada would create 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

Tilbury LNG is vying to become the province’s second project to ship significant quantities of liquefied natural gas exports to Asia in ocean-bound tankers.

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The new facility berth is offered by Fortis LNG Jetty LP and Seaspan ULC. If it wins political approval, it would bolster plans to expand the existing terminal and add export capacity. Construction of this expansion could begin in 2023 if FortisBC receives regulatory clearance and proceeds. It remains unclear if CleanBC can make room for other LNG projects.

Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, a conservation group, said Mr Eby now had an opportunity to deliver on last month’s pledge to meet the province’s climate goals.

“The question is whether he can back those words up with action,” McCartney said. “I think this comment is an olive branch for the people who rallied to try to elect Anjali Appadurai as leader of the party.”

The Wilderness Committee recently held a rally to protest the expansion of Tilbury LNG, with protesters gathered on the sidewalk outside Mr Heyman’s constituency office in Vancouver-Fairview. “Reject Tilbury LNG,” read a sign held by a protester. Another placard bore a direct message: “No LNG”.

The Tilbury LNG plant, which is located in the Vancouver suburb of Delta on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish Nations, is currently a small-scale operation, primarily for domestic storage. It only exported a small amount of liquefied natural gas in containers.

“We’re trying to use Tilbury as a line in the sand, basically,” Mr McCartney said.

Doug Slater, Vice President of External and Indigenous Relations for FortisBC, said the proposed berth and terminal expansion are important to the Delta region and the province.

“We developed the project and presented it as an example of one that ticks all the boxes in terms of environmental, social and economic benefits,” he said.

To supply LNG Canada’s export terminal, TC Energy Corp. is building the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is designed to transport natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to Kitimat.

LNG Canada plans major expansion in what would be phase two from its terminal. In addition to potential expansions there and at Tilbury, three other natural gas tanker export proposals remain active in British Columbia: Woodfibre LNG, Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG.

With all of these projects underway, the Canada Energy Regulator expects steady growth in natural gas production, much of it to fuel liquefied natural gas. He predicts that British Columbia’s natural gas production will exceed that of Alberta over the next five years.

Mr. Eby might say no, but the lure of all that potential revenue will be strong.

During his first days as prime minister, he didn’t talk about climate action. He focused on his other priorities: housing, health care, affordability and public safety. It has already made more than $1 billion in spending commitments, with more expected in the coming weeks.

The oil and gas industry says it’s here to help fund those aspirations.

Lisa Baiton, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said her industry wants to work with Mr. Eby’s government to ensure prosperity for British Columbians and energy security for Canada.

“British Columbia is poised to be one of the world’s largest energy export centers as our allies and trading partners around the world seek new partners to deliver secure oil and natural gas. , secure and low-emissions,” she said. in a report.

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