Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Will Natural Gas extraction become the next flashpoint in the Northwest?

While the Joint Review Panel for the Northern Gateway pipeline winds down it's sessions with three more months of hearings in Prince Rupert, the differing opinions on pipeline development may just be the preamble to the next debate to come.

With the Enbridge pipeline issue far from settled and a report still to be delivered, Environmental advocates are beginning to raise their alarms over the nature of natural gas harvesting practices, concerns which could have an impact on the planned development of LNG terminals in both Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

The issue of concern it seems is the practice of fracking or coalbed methane production, the process now being used by some in  the Natural Gas Industry to extract natural gas and one which can apparently tap into previously unreachable pockets of the resource.

It's those untapped resources that have helped to boost the near Gold rush mindset of late regarding the future of industrial development in both Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

The fracking aspect of the natural gas industry's extraction procedures seems to be the next potential flashpoint between Industrial Development and Environmental Stewardship and with it, perhaps a contentious election issue to come in the May campaign.

Some of those seeking to stop the process of fracking in some locations of BC gathered in Terrace this weekend, in celebration of the the successful campaign to stop development by Shell Canada in the Sacred Headwaters of the Tahltan.

CFTK-- Thaltan Celebrations (video)
CFTK-- Tahltan Celebrate Klappan Victory -- But Warn of other Challenges

At that celebration over the weekend in Terrace, NDP MP Nathan Cullen was joined by Jennifer Rice, the Prince Rupert City Councillor and NDP candidate in the upcoming provincial electionwith Ms. Rice active on twitter to offer up some information on the days events.

Mr. Cullen's speech at that session, provides some background into the concerns of those opposed to natural gas developed through that process.

With the process of natural gas extraction however still one in development, the work it seems is just beginning to share the concerns over that form of development.

A number of ennvironmental organizations and environmental advocates have banded together to issue an Open letter to BC's Political parties, to engage in debate on the topic and to re-commit to British Columbia's previous Green House Gas reduction commitments.

In a news release providing a preamble to the open letter, Marc Lee, co-director of the Climate Justice Project and one of the organizers of the open letter  suggested that the BC government's Natural Gas Strategy should be called the Dirty Energy Strategy.

Towards that theme, the group provided a video that outlines it's thoughts on the process.

Of note to those in the Northwest watching carefully the planned devlopement of LNG terminals along the coast, is a passage from that open letter. One which provides a fairly succinct synopsis from those that signed the letter, of the environmental concerns over such developments.

Six years later, climate change has fallen off the public policy radar. BC does not have a plan to meet its 2020 target, and current aspirations to substantially expand fracking and develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in Northern BC will place the province’s GHG targets even further out of reach. Emissions from exported gas will also lead to higher emissions in Asia. 

 This is a terrible mistake. The impacts of climate change are now even more evident across the world in the form of extreme weather events, from flooding in some regions to wildfires and drought in others. BC is facing new cost pressures arising from the impact of climate change on private property and public infrastructure, and these come on top of the devastation in our forests wrought by the mountain pine beetle, also linked to warmer temperatures. 

Those two paragraphs (and the video presentation above) would seem to lay down the foundation of a discussion to come.

With residents (and candidates in the May election ahead) of the Northwest once again having to learn much more about the issues and join in on the discussion.

Further background on the process of coalbed methane production and some of the concern over it can be found below

Dogwood Intiative-- Coalbed Methane: Best Practices for British Columbia
Pembina Institute-- Coalbed Methane in British Columbia
B. C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas-- Coalbed Methane
Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources-- Fact sheets

Opinion 250 out of Prince George seems to have been the first of the Northern BC media outlets to offer up coverage on the collective in opposition to Coalbed methane production, their report on the Open Letter can be found below.

Opinion 250-- Concerned Group Calls LNG "Dirty Energy Strategy"

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