LNG Canada has received an environmental assessment certificate which gives them the environmental OK to build their plant.
This decision doesn’t mean the company will definitely move ahead to a construction phase — that would happen only after the company issues a positive Final Investment Decision (FID).
Even so, the awarding of the certificate is a major milestone for the project.
The certificate does come with 24 conditions, including environmental monitoring, developing a greenhouse gas emissions management plan, and mitigating and monitoring impacts to marine mammals during construction and shipping.
A unique aspect of this particular environmental review is that it’s the first to be given a certificate under a “substituted environmental assessment” meaning that a single process, lead by British Columbia, provided the review actions on behalf of both the province and the federal government.
The federal government shortly after B.C.’s announcement also formalized their approval of the process, and added 50 conditions as well for LNG Canada to follow.
From here the company will still need federal approvals from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, and a number of regulatory approvals at the provincial level at different stages of the project.
Within the executive director’s list of recommendations in the Reasons for Ministers’ Decision document, a number of concerns were laid out relating to the project.
In a subject known well to people in Kitimat, the environmental assessment office noted concerns regarding cumulative emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
The report says that “the assessment predicted that cumulative SO2 ground level concentrations would be above the Ministry of Environment’s interim Ambient Air Quality Objectives,” but added that “the project on its own did not exceed any objectives or guidance, but predicted exceedances were the result of future cumulative emissions, particularly the emissions from the Rio Tinto Alcan facility.”
The EAO report on reasons for decisions notes that they’re aware of government action to study the cumulative impacts to air quality in the Kitimat air shed and efforts to put in place programs to monitor and mitigate those effects.
“We are satisfied that the EA Certificate conditions and other regulatory requirements, particularly under the Environmental Management Act, will effectively manage air emissions,” the report states.
Other considerations will be the need by the company to offset any impacts to fish habitat, and for the company to deal with the wake from their tankers and take steps to avoid collisions with marine mammals.
LNG Canada issued a statement from its CEO Andy Calitz shortly after the announcement.
“We have made significant progress to advance our project over the past year,” said Calitz. “Receiving both provincial and federal approval of our Environmental Assessment is a critical milestone on our path to making a final investment decision. We could not have achieved this without input from the local community of Kitimat and First Nations, and we appreciate the local knowledge they shared with us.”
He added in the statement, “LNG Canada proposes to have one of the lowest levels of CO2 emissions of any LNG export facility in the world. The project will supply clean burning natural gas to help reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions in countries that currently burn more carbon intensive sources of energy for electricity production. Working with the community and First Nations we continue to find opportunities to mitigate environmental effects and enhance benefits.”