Artist’s rendering of LNG Canada’s proposed plant and shipping terminal at Kitimat. (LNG Canada)

NDP needs ‘magic’ to meet climate targets, Andrew Weaver says

B.C. Greens won’t support carbon tax breaks for LNG plant

It may mean he votes to defeat the John Horgan minority government next year, but B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says he can’t see any way a new liquefied natural gas facility can be built without going over B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Weaver was responding Thursday to Horgan’s announcement that his government is sweetening the deal for new large-scale liquefied natural gas facilities and pipelines, as Shell-led LNG Canada considers a final investment decision on a $40 billion pipeline and LNG export plant near Kitimat.

RELATED: B.C. NDP offers tax breaks to secure LNG plant

Weaver stopped short of saying it’s impossible to approve LNG Canada’s facility and still meet B.C.’s latest emission targets. But as a career climate scientist, he says he has run the numbers and it would take “magic” to do it.

“The problem lies if you try to introduce new legislation to try to exempt the fossil fuel industry from increases in the carbon tax,” Weaver said Thursday. “It’s precisely the reason why you put in a carbon tax.”

Weaver said the three B.C. Green MLAs won’t support the NDP proposal for LNG Canada, expected to be made official with legislation this fall. With the B.C. Liberals likely to support the NDP’s LNG plan, the next opportunity the Greens would have to defeat the government on a confidence motion would likely be next February’s budget.

In negotiating the Green agreement to support the NDP minority, Weaver demanded and got a new target of 40 per cent reduction in B.C.’s carbon dioxide emission targets by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. The government estimates that with efficiencies proposed by LNG Canada in a processing facility at Kitimat, it would add as little as 2.1 megatonnes per year to B.C.’s annual emissions. But Weaver says it will be closer to eight megatonnes if the facility is built to maximum size.

The NDP-Green governing agreement also calls for increasing B.C.’s carbon tax starting this year, earlier than Ottawa requires, at Weaver’s insistence. The offer for LNG Canada unveiled by Horgan Thursday includes an exemption from carbon tax increases.

Weaver also objected to the NDP decision to offer BC Hydro’s standard industrial power rate to LNG producers. He said it amounts to a subsidy for LNG Canada from the B.C. Hydro ratepayers, giving them a rate that’s only half of the cost of producing power from the new Site C dam on the Peace River.

Weaver also scoffed at the $40 billion estimated cost of the LNG Canada project, including a pipeline from the Montney shale gas deposits developed by Shell and others in northeast B.C.

LNG Canada is asking the federal government for an exemption on steel import tariffs, meaning it plans to build plant components in Asia and bring them over, Weaver noted. He said that means most of the investment will be offshore.

The NDP government estimates that construction employment for LNG Canada would peak at 10,000 in 2021, with investors agreed to hire from B.C. first and maximize aboriginal participation. There would be an estimated 950 permanent jobs to operate the facilities, including the liquefaction plant, the Coast GasLink natural gas pipeline to Kitimat and new investment in northeast B.C. gas fields.

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