The B.C. NDP is opposing the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, but it supports a pipeline that will transport gas produced through fracking.
For Michael Jessen, the Green Party of B.C.’s energy critic, that’s a clear double standard.
“The NDP is trying to have its cake and eat it too,” the Nelson-based Jessen told the Straight in a phone interview. According to him, New Democrats are wrong to back the planned 463-kilometre Pacific Trail Pipelines project that will run a pipe from Summit Lake, 55 kilometres north of Prince George, to a liquefied-natural-gas plant in Kitimat. The project is a joint venture of Apache Canada Ltd., EOG Resources Canada Inc., and Encana Corporation.
Kitimat is also the western end of Enbridge’s 1,170-kilometre pipeline that would move bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands.
Jessen said that the B.C. NDP’s position on the two projects that involve exports to Asia, in particular China, is contradictory. “Every credible scientist in the world says that we are in very grave danger of passing a tipping point when the planet may reach temperatures that cause considerable havoc,” he said. “And the solution that many of these scientists say we need to follow is to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.”
Fracking is the practice of pumping fresh water and toxic chemicals deep into the ground to fracture shale bedrock in order to release natural gas.
“It’s been proven that when fracking occurs, there is a considerable amount of methane that is released into the atmosphere,” Jessen explained. “Methane is a far more immediate threat in terms of greenhouse gas when it is released.”
John Horgan is the B.C. NDP critic for energy, mines, and petroleum resources. “In terms of the notion that there’s a contradiction in NDP policy, I don’t think there is,” the Juan de Fuca MLA told the Straight in a phone interview.
Although the extraction and use of both oil and gas affect the environment, Horgan stressed that the impacts of gas are “not as devastating”.
“One of the arguments being made is that they’re both the same, and they’re not,” he said about the two fossil fuels.
The two-term MLA noted that his party supports the expansion of the natural-gas industry in B.C. “provided that appropriate regulatory regimes were in place”. The two-term MLA added that if the B.C. NDP forms the government next year, it will strike an expert panel to review fracking.
“We think that the industry is mature here, as opposed to other places where they’ve had concerns,” Horgan said.
Apache holds the biggest share in the natural-gas pipeline project. It will also operate the liquefied-natural-gas plant in Kitimat. The company did not provide a spokesperson for interview before the Straight’s deadline.
The project has received federal and provincial approvals. According to Jack Etkin, a former leadership candidate for the provincial Green Party, pipeline construction is scheduled to start this summer.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Etkin noted that although the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline has generated a lot of public attention, the Pacific Trail Pipelines project has been largely ignored: “It’s as if this other pipeline is not happening.”