The Green Party of British Columbia, under Sonia Furstenau's leadership, has firmly set their sights on the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant, wielding a study that links proximity to gas wells with an elevated risk of premature birth. But here's the rub: this study roots itself in the harsh reality of Texas's gargantuan Eagle Ford Shale play, not the mountains of British Columbia.
The Eagle Ford formation, a vast expanse stretching across 26 counties, twinkles from space with the light of thousands of flaring wells. With around 4,300 active gas wells, the amount of capital invested renders it the largest oil and gas development in the world.
Despite the disparity, the Greens insist on peddling tales of government cover-ups related to its births study truffle. The fact is that Woodfibre LNG is located 1,300 kilometres from the gas wells that will feed it.
It’s not like this is an apple-to-apple comparison with our own circumstances, it's an apple-to-orchard analogy. Expectant mothers in Squamish could more likely encounter a sasquatch than face any undue risks from the likes of the Woodfibre LNG plant. The only cover-up in sight is the Greens trying to present the births study as having anything remotely to do with a localized project in Canada. Let's save the horror stories for the campfire, shall we?
Though media picked up the Greens’ news release with unusual alacrity, to the discerning reader one other thing quickly became crystal clear: Woodfibre LNG isn't an unruly oil giant, but a responsible energy project primed with environmental consciousness. It has committed to using green electricity from B.C.'s grid, protecting marine wildlife, and restoring a previously polluted shoreline.
Importantly, it carries the support of the Squamish First Nation after a thorough environmental review, exemplifying a harmonious alliance between energy development and Indigenous communities.
As Asia transitions from high-GHG fuels to cleaner energy, LNG demand will escalate. If it doesn't come from B.C., where environmental standards are strict and Woodfibre's commitment to eco-responsibility is firm, it will come from somewhere else.
Furstenau and her party have every right to question and critique. But their concerns should be factually rooted, not blown out of proportion. It's time to comprehend how initiatives like Woodfibre LNG can contribute to our collective climate ambitions.
Instead of seeing the LNG plant as a threat, the Greens could celebrate a project that is pushing the boundaries of responsible energy development. Woodfibre LNG’s goal isn’t just to export a clean fuel, it is to enable nations across the Pacific that lack other options to become meaningful participants in the energy transition. Even with Woodfibre LNG and the much bigger LNG Canada project underway to the north, Canada has much more to give the world. It’s still possible to encounter diplomats from certain East Asian countries grumbling undiplomatically about Canadian selfishness with its vast cleaner energy reserves.
It may be more than a coincidence that the Greens’ outburst followed on the heels of BC’s Premier David Eby touring Asia to hear first-hand from the province’s trading partners. On his whirlwind trip, he paused long enough to tell media at home: “It’s really apparent in my meetings in Japan and South Korea, that the governments there feel a huge level of urgency around energy security and … energy in all forms — LNG, hydrogen.”
Eby noted that diversifying our trading partners means “deepening trade relations with more than our two main trading partners, the United States and China.”
While not quite on the scale of his predecessor Christy Clark, who in her time as premier picked up the dusty liquefied natural gas file and turned it into a career-defining political mission, this looks like a turnabout for a premier who only a few months ago could not bring himself to say “LNG” to a roomful of LNG project supporters.
Energy transition is real, it’s happening, and it’s happening here in our backyard as well as everyone else’s. Wouldn't it be more beneficial for the Greens to follow the example of the premier and seek out full information to allow for balanced judgment to be applied to a topic of significant public interest? In this light, the Woodfibre LNG project is a case study for sustainable progress, rather than a misguided harbinger of doom.
So, let's convert the narrative from one of hostility and fear, to understanding and cooperation. Let's jointly navigate our environmental challenges, armed with facts, open to potential solutions, and respectful of all stakeholders, including Indigenous partners. That's a headline many of us would love to read.
Stewart Muir heads the Vancouver-based Resource Works Society.