Fourteen northern B.C. mayors whose communities would financially benefit from the planned LNG Canada multi-billion liquefied natural gas project at Kitimat say they’re disappointed a Smithers resident now wants a federal review of the pipeline that would feed it.
The mayors of communities from northeastern B.C. through the northwest have told Michael Sawyer he had years to challenge TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline and is only doing so now “when the respective project partners are on the verge of making an investment decision on what could be the single largest investment in our nation’s history.”
Although both the pipeline and the liquefied natural gas plant have received provincial environmental approvals, Sawyer filed an application the end of July asking the federal National Energy Board to examine whether it has the jurisdiction to review the Coastal GasLink plan to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the planned LNG Canada plant in Kitimat.
While provinces have jurisdiction over natural resource development, Sawyer, in his filing, says the NEB could also have jurisdiction when a planned pipeline would connect to an existing pipeline system that’s federally regulated.
That’s a position based on previous court decisions.
His challenge comes at a time of increasing speculation that LNG Canada’s investors are about to commit to the estimated $40 billion project, which would super cool natural gas at Kitimat for tanker transport to Asian customers.
The project’s partners, including Shell, have repeatedly tagged the latter part of this year as when they’d make a decision.
LNG Canada has already been ramping up activity at Kitimat, including dredging the harbour there to allow docking of tankers and advancing plans to construct a camp to house thousands of construction workers.
The mayors, in a letter sent Sept. 6 to Sawyer, acknowledged his right to file a jurisdictional challenge but remind him “our communities are in support of the proposed LNG Canada export facility and associated pipeline” because of the financial benefits of employment and economic activity that would follow.
“The development of this project would create billions of dollars in taxes for all levels of government which will support programs that are important to all of us, such as education, health care, infrastructure, and funding for environmental sustainability initiatives,” the mayors wrote.
They say that while natural gas is a hydrocarbon-based energy source, it produces fewer greenhouse gases than burning coal.
In previous statements, Sawyer says that natural gas may be a cleaner burning fuel but that when all facets of production ranging from exploration to transport are factored in, it emits more carbon than coal.
Sawyer, a consultant who previously worked in the Alberta energy industry, says there was no ulterior motive behind the timing of his NEB filing and that it simply took him time to prepare it.
TransCanada has already responded to Sawyer’s filing, calling it “vexatious”.
The NEB says it is considering its next steps in response to Sawyer.
The 14 mayors are from Mackenzie, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe, Taylor, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, Tumbler Ridge and Fort St. John in the northeast and from Burns Lake, New Hazelton, Terrace, Vanderhoof, Houston and Kitimat in the northwest.
The letter to Sawyer was also addressed to the West Coast Environmental Law Association which has provided him with financial assistance.