McKenna on hot seat for Lelu decision

The government’s decision on whether or not to approve the Pacific NorthWest LNG project continues to hang in suspense.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.

The government’s decision on whether or not to approve the Pacific NorthWest LNG project continues to hang in suspense with no deadline in sight.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna was put under fire last week by the members of the Official Opposition Conservatives who asked when she will make her decision on the project.

“At the beginning of March, the proponent brought significant new information that raised concerns about impacts on salmon, human health, and indigenous peoples. We are committed to doing a review that is based on science and facts, and we have said that once we have the necessary information we will make a decision within 90 days,” McKenna said in the House of Commons debates on April 20.

The Conservative MP from Abbotsford, Ed Fast, wasn’t satisfied with McKenna’s response.

“That is not good enough, because the minister first claimed that her decision would be based on science. Then the natural resources minister proudly contradicted her by saying that the decision would be political. Now the minister simply says she will make the decision whenever she feels like it. That is the ultimate uncertainty,” Fast said.

McKenna said the government will make decisions based on facts, science and evidence. “We understand the importance of getting resources to market. However, we need to be doing it in a sustainable way,” she said.

The federal minister was expected to give her decision on the project on March 22 but the decision on the $36-billion project has been delayed. On March 18, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) asked for additional information from the proponent to determine if the project would cause significant adverse environmental effects after new information surfaced.

On April 22, CEAA confirmed that the proponent has submitted a preliminary draft response to the government’s information request to address areas of uncertainty on how to mitigate potential adverse effects from the project. For example, the CEAA wasn’t aware that PNW LNG was going to work night and day. The agency wants the proponent to address how it plans to mitigate the effects of light and noise activities.

The CEAA has also considered comments from First Nation groups who suggested that the currents simulated in the proponent’s 3D modelling of current speeds over Flora Bank may not be accurate. The agency requested the proponent address the potential effects on the area.

“This preliminary draft material is being circulated to expert federal departments such as Natural Resources Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Health Canada for their initial review,” wrote Karen Fish, the communications advisor for CEAA, in an email. “The agency will share the departments’ feedback with the proponent to assist them in preparing the final response. Once the proponent submits [it] and we have determined it satisfies the March 18, 2016 information request, the timeline for the project will resume. At that time, the three-month extension that you refer to will take effect, and the government intends to make a final decision on the project within that timeframe.”

Once the proponent submits their final response, the CEAA has 15 days to decide if its information request is satisfactory, and if it is, then McKenna will have 90 days to make her decision.