B.C. presses for LNG approval after delay

Natural gas minister Rich Coleman says latest delay to Petronas-backed project at Prince Rupert must be 'overcome'

Lelu Island off Prince Rupert has been studied for two years as a site for a large-scale liquefied natural gas export terminal.

The B.C. government has sent officials to Ottawa to help work through the latest delay in the Pacific Northwest LNG project at Prince Rupert, a 90-day extension requested by the federal regulator to study fisheries impact.

Rich Coleman, B.C.’s minister for natural gas development, said Monday he hopes to “overcome the delay” in approval of the Petronas-backed liquefied natural gas project that applied for federal environmental assessment more than three years ago.

“I’m confident that any remaining questions can be answered completely and quickly,” Coleman said in a statement. “They have to be. Jobs for British Columbians should not be held by unnecessary delays.”

Coleman said the the $36 billion plant and pipeline would be the largest private investment in Canadian history, equivalent to four Site C dams, five Olympic games or 11 Port Mann bridge projects.

The much smaller Woodfibre LNG project at a former pulp mill site near Squamish received federal environmental approval last week.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced Friday that the Woodfibre project has been found unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The project received provincial approval in October 2015 after a joint review coordinated by B.C.

The Pacific North project got a boost last week when the Lax Kwa’laams Band council reversed its opposition to a terminal at Lelu Island, notifying McKenna that it would support the plan with two conditions.

McKenna granted the extension at the request of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which asked Pacific Northwest for more information on effects of in-water construction activities at Flora Bank, an important salmon-rearing area for the Skeena River.

Rallies and truck parades were held in Fort St. John and Fort Nelson last week to urge the federal government to approve LNG projects to provide an export market for B.C. gas.

A glut of natural gas across North America has brought drilling activity in northeastern B.C. gas fields to a near-halt, with a recent sale of drilling rights by the B.C. government attracting no sales for the first time in the industry’s 50-year history.