What’s next for Cedar LNG?

Cedar LNG’s environmental approval is good news, but overly burdensome conditions may threaten future projects in the public interest.

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith. Photo from the Canadian Press.

The Haisla Nation-led Cedar LNG project in BC recently received environmental certificates to proceed from the BC and federal governments – a decision widely welcomed.

But there’s still a long road ahead for the Haisla Nation. Perhaps not widely recognized is that the go-ahead simply moves the Cedar project into the next (and lengthy) stage of jumping through the hoops of applications and permits and showing Ottawa and Victoria how the project will conform to an increasingly discouraging list of federal and provincial requirements.

Those requirements may signal storm clouds for future LNG projects.

Any future LNG ventures in BC, such as Cedar and the Nisga’a Nation’s Ksi Lisims project, will have to meet BC’s new Energy Action Framework. Under it, BC will require that “all proposed LNG facilities in or entering the environmental assessment (EA) process pass an emissions test with a credible plan to be net zero by 2030,” announced the government.

The new rules and a definition of what will constitute “a credible plan” have not yet been provided.

At this stage, BC has said that Cedar LNG itself is required to be “near-zero” rather than strictly net zero by 2030. But the federal government has ruled that the Cedar project must be net-zero by 2050.

“The province will enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Haisla Nation to help achieve further climate objectives, including exploring ways to enhance environmental performance and lower emissions to near zero by 2030,” said the provincial government.

When BC issued its environmental assessment certificate for Cedar LNG, it included 16 legally enforceable conditions that Cedar LNG must follow over the lifespan of the project. Those include:

  • An approved greenhouse-gas reduction plan “that addresses provincial emissions reduction targets and schedules, considers technologies to minimize emissions and outlines technologies and measures to be implemented to reduce emissions;”
  • An approved environmental-management plan covering air quality, waste management and accidents or malfunctions;
  • And “a socioeconomic management plan to prioritize regional and Indigenous hiring and procurement, provide on-the-job training and apprenticeship and minimize impacts on local housing and accommodations.”

BC also recommended 65 federal mitigation measures and nine follow-up programs to address potential impacts in areas of federal jurisdiction, including marine shipping, marine emergency response and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ottawa was even more burdensome, with not 16 or 65 conditions but over 250 legally-binding conditions, including being completely net-zero no later than 2050.

The federal government insists that Cedar LNG “shall utilize, from the start of operation, electricity from the electrical grid for the pre-treatment and liquefaction of natural gas, and continue to utilize electricity from the electrical grid as the primary source of power during all of operation.”

Fortunately, this has always been Cedar’s plan (as it has for the Nisga’a Nations Ksi Lisims LNG project, which says it will be designed to be net-zero), and Ottawa recognized the quality of Cedar LNG’s plan to reach net-zero emissions. “The proponent’s net-zero plan was determined by Environment and Climate Change Canada to be credible, and it includes a commitment to continuously evaluate and implement best available technologies and best environmental practices,” said the federal government.

“The Haisla have been stewards of our lands and waters for generations and take our obligation to be stewards of the land and the living things on it with the utmost importance," said Chief Councillor Crystal Smith. "We also believe that bold measures are needed to fight climate change to protect the environment and our way of life, while helping to lift Indigenous communities out of poverty."

Nonetheless, the federal conditions for Cedar LNG include a long string of environmental requirements. Among them include measures for protecting air, waters, whales, fish, fish habitat, marine mammals, marine vegetation, birds and nests and eggs, marbled murrelet, frogs and toads, little brown myotis bats, watercourses and wetlands, land vegetation and trees, ‘things of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance”, physical and cultural heritage resources, and dealing with noise and light. Conditions go as far as to demand special policies on the idling of vehicles.

There are also federal requirements on shipping and shipping safety, including one for the requirement for “a Marine Transportation Management Plan to mitigate federal adverse effects on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Indigenous Peoples caused by construction-related marine shipping and operation-related marine shipping.”

As Cedar LNG’s proponents act on implementing the more than 266 legally binding conditions of the provincial and federal governments – and evaluating their costs – it will likely be some time before they reach a final investment decision. The same will undoubtedly be true for the Ksi Lisims LNG project in BC, proposed by the Nisga’a Nation with partners Rockies LNG and Western LNG, as it looks ahead to the continually evolving list of federal and provincial demands.

For the sake of Indigenous economic aspirations, Canadian prosperity and the global climate, one hopes that the province’s rapid net-zero timeline and Ottawa’s excessive red tape fail to discourage future LNG export projects.

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