Conservatives See ‘Chaos’ in LNG Project Approval, as Petronas Considers Selling Its Stake
The fallout continued late last week from the Trudeau government’s decision to approve the $36-billion Petronas liquefied natural gas (LNG) megaproject last week, with Opposition Conservatives accusing Ottawa of sowing uncertainty and “chaos” in the industry, British Columbia batting away reports that Petronas was trying to offload its stake in the project, and First Nations opposition to the deal continuing to build.
In the House of Commons Friday, Conservative natural resources critic Candice Bergen “accused the Liberals of leaving industry investors in the lurch with a complicated mix of climate targets and energy policies, and questioned whether the 190 technical, environmental, and financial conditions imposed on the newly-approved Pacific Northwest LNG project were intentionally designed so they could not be met,” the National Observer reports.
Like this story? Subscribe to The Energy Mix and never miss an edition of our free e-digest.
“The federal government has created so much uncertainty in the energy sector, and with investors…now saying even though there might be approval with 190 conditions, are those—is it actually genuine conditions that they can meet?” Bergen asked reporters outside the House.
“They’ve created uncertainty in the sector, whether it’s the approval process or whether it’s even once the approval happens, where businesses and investors have the confidence that they can move forward. So the Liberals have to answer for the uncertainty they’ve caused.”
Petronas and the B.C. Ministry of Natural Gas Development both denied news reports that the Malaysian state oil and gas company was looking for a buyer for its majority stake in the controversial Pacific NorthWest project. But earlier in the day, citing three unnamed sources, Reuters said Petronas “has been considering a sale for months, after it became apparent that a Canadian approval was possible, but had yet to take a final decision. Other options are also being considered, including putting it on ice.”
A source told Reuters: “They are going to be looking at gas prices, costs, and returns before they make the final decision. It is a very tough call.”
The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg both reported in August that Petronas would revisit the project, with Bloomberg pointing to a stunning 96% in the company’s second-quarter profits this year, brought about by crashing natural gas prices in Asia. As long ago as March, Petronas was threatening to abandon the project if the federal Cabinet didn’t approve it by the end of the month.
But while the B.C. government and the federal Opposition sought to shore up the project’s sagging profile, DeSmog Canada was out Thursday with a report on a 43-year-old Environment Canada study that pointed to the impact of megaproject development on critical salmon habitats in B.C.’s Skeena Estuary, where Pacific NorthWest would be built.
“Inverness Passage, Flora Bank, and De Horsey Bank, in that order, are habitats of critical importance for the rearing of juvenile salmon,” the report concluded. “The construction of a superport at Kitson Island-Flora Bank site would destroy much of this critical salmon habitat.”
Lax Kw’alaams First Nations band member Christine Smith-Martin brought that concern into focus last Tuesday when she “crashed” the news conference where three federal Cabinet ministers and B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced approval of the project, stated the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition.
Haida Nation President Peter Lantin subsequently asked Clark to stay away Friday when Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited the territory, and Haida rowers wore anti-LNG t-shirts as they escorted the royal couple, CBC reported.
“We have some outstanding issues with the premier,” Lantin said. “We believe the respectful thing to do would be to resolve those issues before coming in on the heels of the royals.”
Clark had been trailing Will and Kate all week, but her office said she had called Lantin’s office Wednesday to decline a visit to Haida Gwaii.