VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan was in an inspirational mood Friday when he addressed the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Whistler.
He thanked key players for rising to the occasion on the year’s fires and floods, pledged to listen to local government — not saying if that would extend to complaints about the speculation tax — and used the platform to campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum on proportional representation.
Near the end, Horgan rolled out a big-ticket item, when he advised B.C. appears to be on the threshold of a multibillion-dollar investment in liquefied natural gas.
“We are now very, very close to realizing a final investment decision from LNG Canada,” Horgan confided, referring to the export terminal that Shell and partners are proposing to build at Kitimat on the Northwest Coast.
“It will transform Kitimat, most assuredly, but will provide certainty and sustainability for our gas sector, from wellhead to water line.”
By the numbers: 4,500 jobs in the four-year construction phase, a $36 billion investment in the terminal at full build-out, $4.7 billion for the pipeline link to the gas fields in the northeast, and an estimated half a billion dollars a year in direct provincial revenues.
The premier took credit for helping the project across the finish line, presuming that is the result of the final stage of deliberations by the Shell-led consortium.
“We, upon becoming government, were approached by investors about what sort of platform are we going to provide for industry,” Horgan recounted. “When it came to the LNG industry we didn’t say we’re going to tax you more than anyone else, we didn’t say we were going to put in place new regulations that were extraordinary and unique to you, we said we’re going to treat you just like we would an investor in the forest sector, an investor in the mining sector.”
He’s referring to the NDP decision to rollback aspects of the LNG tax and regulatory regime brought in by the B.C. Liberals. For a project on the scale of LNG Canada, that relief amounts to an estimated $6 billion over 40 years.
Should the project go ahead on those terms, the New Democrats would nevertheless have to share credit with the B.C. Liberals for getting things rolling and doing much of the heavy lifting on LNG.
It was seven years ago next week that then-Premier Christy Clark journeyed to Kitimat to promise her government would undertake “a more aggressive approach” to LNG development.
Overreaching, she touted the possibility of “three LNG plants by 2020.” But markets slumped, regulatory barriers intervened, and the window of opportunity closed before the province could secure even one terminal.
Horgan, in Opposition, remained generally supportive of LNG, though he joined the protests that helped kill the proposed Petronas LNG terminal at Lelu Island on the Northwest Coast. Petronas, the Malaysian government-owned company, is back as a partner in LNG Canada.
The prospects for the latter project got another boost this week with news about the natural gas pipeline for the Kitimat terminal. All 20 elected Indigenous groups along the route of the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline have now signed agreements to support the project and share in its benefits.
One small group of Indigenous people do remain entrenched in an encampment in the proposed path of the line. I gather it may take a court injunction to remove them.
Other hurdles remain to be cleared. The LNG Canada builders seek relief from the federal tariffs on the steel in the terminal modules, which would be built off shore and assembled in Kitimat.
The Federal Court of appeal has heard their case and a decision is expected later this month. A favourable outcome for the project is expected, but then that was the case with the same court’s decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Then there’s the challenge of reconciling the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the LNG terminal with the province’s climate action plan. Horgan says the entire cabinet is working on the revised plan, to be delivered later this fall.
“Everyone wants to have investment, provided it’s the right investment. Everyone wants to make sure we’re working with Indigenous people. Everyone wants to ensure that we are protecting our planet,” Horgan said Friday.
“I believe we can do all of those things — walking and chewing gum and having a drink of water is not that difficult.”
Some of the difficultly entails not walking, chewing or drinking, but squaring up things with the NDP’s partners in power sharing.
LNG and climate action cannot be reconciled, according to Green Leader Andrew Weaver, who has threatened to bring down the government if the New Democrats go ahead.
But it is not clear if he’d get the chance, for the B.C. Liberals would probably support the New Democrats on LNG.
“I will be among the first to give John Horgan and the B.C. NDP credit,” as ex-premier Christy Clark’s former chief of staff and longtime friend Mike McDonald put it Friday. “This project is bigger than partisan politics. It will have huge benefit for all British Columbians.”
Against LNG Weaver has at most three votes in the legislature. If Shell and partners decide to take the multibillion-dollar plunge later this fall, I can’t image the B.C. legislature would put up any further obstacles to the project.
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.