B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver calls NDP government's LNG legislation a "generational sellout"

Monday, March 25, 2019
Georgia Straight

Photo by Peter McCartney (WC files)

The B.C. Greens have committed to supporting the B.C. NDP government on supply and confidence bills.

But Andrew Weaver and his two B.C. Green caucus colleagues have no intention of voting for Bill 10, which would provide a natural gas tax credit for "qualifying corporations".

Effective January 1, 2020, this tax credit can be used to reduce B.C.’s corporate income tax rate for eligible companies from 12 percent to 9 percent.

They must be involved in the following activities:

(i) the exploration for or development of petroleum or natural gas;

(ii) the production, gathering, processing, refining, marketing, storage or disposal of petroleum, natural gas or LNG;

(iii) the construction, use or operation of a major LNG facility;

(iv) the liquefaction of natural gas;

(v) and a prescribed activity.

Weaver said that this incentive runs counter to the objectives of the CleanBC plan, which his party supported, to create a more sustainable economy and shrink B.C.'s carbon footprint.

“Continuing to push for LNG development is short-sighted and works directly against CleanBC objectives,” Weaver stated in a party news release. “After years of criticizing the B.C. Liberals for their generous giveaway of our natural gas resources, the B.C. NDP have taken the giveaway to a whole new level. The legislation brought forward by this government is a generational sellout.

“We have only identified a pathway to take us only 75 percent of our 2030 emissions goals, yet we know that LNG Canada will emit an additional 3.45 megatonnes of greenhouse gases every year within our province alone, contributing massively to this gap," Weaver continued. "Government is demonstrating hypocrisy by supporting both LNG and CleanBC. They want to have their cake and eat it, too."

Finance Minister Carole James, on the other hand, insisted that this legislation will benefit the province.

“British Columbians are counting on us to attract LNG investment that meets strict conditions: delivering jobs and financial benefits to B.C., creating economic partnerships with Indigenous peoples, and protecting our clean air, land and water,” she said in a news release. “This legislation completes the process of creating a fiscal framework that invites investment while supporting those conditions.”

If passed, Bill 10 will repeal the Liquefied Natural Gas Income Tax Act, which was passed by the former B.C. Liberal government.

According to the NDP government, that "created barriers for investment in B.C.’s natural gas sector".

Bill 10 will also repeal the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act. According to the NDP government, this legislation left British Columbians "vulnerable to footing the bill for special industry tax and regulatory protections".

The new legislation sets the stage for LNG Canada to proceed with a $40-billion investment in an LNG plant near Kitimat and a pipeline to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C.

Even if Bill 10 were defeated, it wouldn't bring down the NDP government and force an election. That's because it's not a confidence or supply bill.

Meanwhile, Peter McCartney, climate campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, has accused Premier John Horgan of "talking out of both sides of his mouth on climate change".

“British Columbians are all doing their part to cut carbon pollution while at the same time he’s giving $6 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to construct the most polluting project in the province,” McCartney said in a news release.

Last year, the director of external relations with LNG Canada, Susannah Pierce, wrote a commentary on Straight.com saying that at full build-out, the project would emit four megatonnes of carbon dioxide.

"While we will be adding to B.C.’s CO2 emissions, the net gain in reducing global CO2 emissions will be significantly more based on life cycle analyses conducted on B.C. LNG," she stated.

McCartney, however, claimed that when completed, LNG Canada's project would be responsible for 8.6 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. And he insisted there's been no proof that production of LNG will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other countries, despite claims by advocates of the project.

“British Columbians are lurching from one extreme weather event to the next and this government still can’t get serious about what needs to be done,” McCartney stated. “This effort is going to be extremely challenging already, without making it even harder on ourselves."

The discrepancy between the carbon-dioxide estimates of McCartney and Pierce related to emissions further up the gas supply chain.

This was addressed in a policy note last year by Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"LNG Canada claims its planned facility would be twice as efficient in terms of GHG emissions per tonne of LNG produced, but such a bold claim should be treated with skepticism," Lee write. "The proposed facility would use some B.C. Hydro grid electricity, but only to keep the lights on; the liquefaction process itself would burn gas—a lot of it."

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