Skeena - Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen looks on as Pacific NorthWest LNG president Greg Kist responds to a question from the audience.

LNG development spurs debate at MP’s town hall

The Tom Rooney Playhouse was packed on Feb. 20 as Skeena - Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen brought his LNG town hall tour to Prince Rupert.

The Tom Rooney Playhouse was packed on Feb. 20 as Skeena – Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen brought his LNG town hall tour to Prince Rupert.

The two-hour gathering included a panel of five representing various interests as it relates to LNG: Pacific NorthWest LNG president Greg Kist represented industry, Ross Wilson of the Metlakatla Stewardship Society gave a voice to First Nations, Clean Energy Canada director Jeremy Moorhouse represented clean energy interests, Port Edward Mayor Dave Macdonald represented municipal government and Des Nobels of the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation spoke from the perspective of environmental activists. Having that mix is something Cullen said is key as the industry looks to the North Coast.

“With the number and scope of LNG projects proposed, we so rarely get all of the perspectives together at once,” he said, noting his own position on the industry remains unclear.

“I am holding these as much for myself as for everyone … I haven’t made up my mind yet, which is strange because I usually make up my mind quickly.”

The first to speak was Kist, who provided an update on the company’s proposed export terminal on Lelu Island.  In addition to making changes to the design to accommodate feedback from the public, Kist said Pacific NorthWest LNG is taking steps to mitigate environmental impacts.

“We certainly are committed to building a world-class facility and that includes greenhouse gas emissions … I believe our project will be among the cleanest in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“We are committed to building and operating the terminal in an environmentally sustainable manner and LNG is, in my view, a clean industry.”

Despite that commitment, Wilson said the Metlakatla Band Council is concerned about what kind of impact multiple terminals could have on the region and is taking it upon itself to seek out those answers.

“The Metlakatla Band is undertaking a new project looking at cumulative impacts. It’s a buzzword with government, but nobody is doing anything so Metlakatla is taking those steps,” he said, listing items such as rail and vessel traffic, air quality and social impacts as part of the study.

“I’m not saying we’re opposed to LNG, I’m saying they need to do their due diligence. And if they are going to do a study, Metlakatla is going to be part of it.”

Moorhouse said he doesn’t oppose LNG export developments, but that industry should be looking to clean energy sources like wind to power the terminals.

“Using fossil fuels will create 900 jobs. Using clean energy will create 1,300 jobs. If you go with renewable energy, that is an extra 400 jobs in the northwest,” he said, noting the cost difference between the two methods is two per cent while the reduction in carbon emissions is 90 per cent.

Mayor Dave MacDonald said a number of his concerns about the LNG industry were addressed when council visited a plant in Malaysia, but acknowledged there are pros and cons.

“In Port Edward some of us, but not all of us, are excited about what has come to the community since this development was announced,” he said.

“I personally have seen how happy parents are to say their child has come back home and found work. People my age and a bit younger recall our children leaving the area because there were no jobs.”

Nobels pulled no punches in outlining his organizations concerns about the industry, including increased traffic, the effects of upstream fracking and at-sea disposal of dredge.

But his biggest concern was location.

“We’re not so much opposed to the project as we are to the placement. The Lelu Island site raises a lot of red flags — this is the estuary for the Skeena. Do we really want to industrialize it?” he asked.