Quebec rejects LNG plant that would have transported natural gas from Western Canada to overseas markets

The Quebec government refused to approve the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Saguenay, north of Quebec, after years of opposition from citizens, Indigenous communities and environmental experts.

The decision, announced Wednesday by the Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette, effectively kills a $ 14 billion project that would have transported natural gas from Western Canada through Quebec to the port of Saguenay, then would have it. shipped to overseas markets.

The government of Prime Minister François Legault had initially been a promoter of the project, which hoped to diversify the economy in a region largely dependent on the aluminum industries and forestry.

But the government also defined three criteria for approving the installation of natural gas: it was to help the transition to greener forms of energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and receive sufficient public support.

Charette said an analysis from his department determined that the Énergie Saguenay project could not meet the first two criteria. Ministry officials did not bother to analyze the third.

“This is a project that has more drawbacks than advantages,” Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette said on Wednesday, seen here in November 2020. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)

“It’s a project that has more drawbacks than advantages,” he said at a press conference in Saguenay.

Legault’s cabinet met a few hours earlier to finalize the decision not to support the construction of the facility.

The $ 14 billion project included a plan to build a 780-kilometer pipeline from northern Ontario to Saguenay and a separate project to build a plant to liquefy gas in Saguenay and load it onto tankers.

Wednesday’s decision only affected the LNG plant, but Charette acknowledged that without the plant, the pipeline was highly unlikely to continue as well.

GNL Quebec, the company behind the Énergie Saguenay project, said in a statement that it was “disappointed and surprised” by the announcement, and was assessing what to do next.

Charette acknowledges the likely disappointment in the West

Natural gas would come from Western Canada, primarily from hydraulic fracturing operations in British Columbia and Alberta. Charette said he expected many there, especially in Alberta, to be disappointed with Quebec’s decision.

But he stressed that Quebec was not the only jurisdiction in the world to take a critical look at natural resource projects.

“To our friends in Alberta, we say, let’s work together on other types of projects, on cleaner projects,” he said.

The Quebec government’s initial enthusiasm for the project became difficult to sustain as major funders pulled out and environmental concerns mounted.

In March, the province’s independent environmental review agency released a report criticizing plans to build a plant and marine terminal in Saguenay.

The project was likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by eight million tonnes per year, the agency concluded.

A Greenpeace banner bearing the inscription “No LNG” hangs on a building under construction at the University of Montreal in October 2020. Énergie Saguenay, a LNG Quebec project, had aroused strong opposition from environmental groups. (Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press)

Last month, federal environmental agencies determined that the project, which would involve large tankers transiting the Saguenay River, threatened beluga whales.

And last week, three Innu communities swore to oppose the project because of the negative impact it would have on the environment.

“We signed a collaboration agreement with the developer several years ago, but over time, we realized that the project was not so green,” said Martin Dufour, chief of the Essipit band council on Wednesday. Innu.

“It was an easy decision because the project went against our values ​​on wildlife and the environment.”

Other investments to come for Saguenay, promises the minister

For the Saguenay business community, however, the government’s decision was a bitter pill to swallow, especially after openly supporting the project for so long.

Charette was accompanied to Wednesday’s press conference by Andrée Laforest, the minister responsible for the Saguenay region.

“I didn’t want to run away from the bad news,” said Laforest, who was one of Énergie Saguenay’s strongest supporters.

Laforest promised that other major investments in the local aluminum and forestry industries would be forthcoming. With Charette, she tried to emphasize that their government remained receptive to other great development opportunities.

“We believed in the GNL Quebec project. The government was very open to it. We will continue to be open to ambitious projects, ”she said.

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