Bets her government's future on shale gas
DAWSON CREEK, B.C.—B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark has bet her government’s future on exponential growth in liquefied natural gas, and she will take her election campaign into the heart of British Columbia oil and gas country Thursday.
Clark will be in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John in northeastern B.C., a landscape dotted with a burgeoning natural gas industry that forms the backbone of Clark’s economic plan for the province.
Clark is scheduled to visit an Encana facility in Dawson Creek. The Calgary-based company extracts natural gas facilities in northeastern B.C. near Dawson Creek, Farmington, Tomslake and Pouce Coupe.
The export of LNG is worth $1 trillion in economic growth over 30 years, Clark said at a campaign stop Wednesday. The product will fetch five times more overseas than it will in North America.
There has already been $7 billion invested in B.C. LNG and the Japanese government has guaranteed another $10 billion, Clark told hard-hat wearing workers at Langley Concrete in Chilliwack, one example of a business she said would directly benefit from LNG development.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but we need to seize it. We have to make sure we can capture this moment in the global marketplace and seize it, rather than squander it.”
The New Democrat platform released last week said an NDP government would expand the province’s carbon tax to include vented emissions from oil and gas operations.
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said at the time that the expansion would spur industry innovation and capture an additional five per cent of carbon emissions in the province. The New Democrats said the expansion, effective next April, would add $35 million to provincial coffers the first year and $100 million by 2016-17.
The Liberals’ BC Jobs Plan says the government would like to have the province’s first LNG plant in operation by 2015. The Liberals have committed to having three facilities operating by 2020 but there are now at least a half-dozen proposals at various stages in B.C.
Clark has reiterated on the campaign trail her pledge to use the revenues from LNG to establish a Prosperity Fund to pay down the provincial debt in 15 years.
“A debt-free B.C. and liquefied natural gas go hand in hand,” Clark said during a campaign stop in Chilliwack.
The Liberal plans for B.C.’s lucrative LNG future do not address some of the potential pitfalls.
Some environmental groups such as the Dogwood Initiative oppose the increase in tanker traffic off the B.C. coast from shipping LNG overseas. Others, such as the David Suzuki Foundation, are concerned about the process for extracting tight or shale gas from the ground. So-called “fracking” uses water, sand, and chemicals injected into the ground at high pressure to break up the underlying rock and release gas.
The process can cause earthquakes—minor quakes, according to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission—and results in toxic wastewater that they fear can contaminate drinking water.
Encana facilities near Dawson Creek were the target of a series of unsolved pipeline bombings in northeastern B.C. that began in the fall of 2008. Someone purporting to be the bomber sent a letter to local news media calling Encana and other companies terrorists and demanding a stop to the “crazy expansion of deadly gas wells.”
Asked about the environmental concerns, Clark said B.C. natural gas exports will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world.
“The thing about liquefied natural gas is it’s the cleanest fossil fuel on the planet, and so when we start exporting that to Asia we are going to be displace dirty fuels that they are using in those countries,” she said.
Clark is scheduled to attend a campaign rally in Prince George on Thursday night.
Dix and his team will travel much of the length of Vancouver island, ending with an evening rally in Sidney, near Victoria.
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