Quebec upheld its reputation as no-go territory for fossil fuel projects Wednesday by denying environmental approval for a US$10.6 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plan.
GNL Quebec’s proposed Energie Saguenay terminal and Gazoduq pipeline failed to prove it would cut global greenhouse gas emissions, provincial Environment Minister Benoit Charette said in announcing the rejection.
The decision ended hope for LNG exports of Western Canadian gas from Canada’s Atlantic seaboard. Pieridae Energy Ltd. earlier this month shelved the only other active East Coast proposal — the US$10 billion Goldboro LNG project in Nova Scotia.
The Quebec decision did not surprise the Alberta-based Canadian oil and gas industry, where the LNG plan’s fate is seen as just the latest example of a well-established pattern.
Since 2016 Quebec banned hydraulic fracturing to tap Utica Shale gas and led opposition that aborted TC Energy Corp.’s C$16 billion (US$12.8 billion) Energy East plan for a cross-Canada oil pipeline.
Charette said flaws in the GNL Quebec proposal emerged from a prolonged and hotly contested examination of potential project effects by the provincial Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE).
The case drew a protest avalanche from urban academics and environmental groups, leaving the LNG project supported only by small centers at the proposed terminal site 277 miles east of Montreal at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers.
Only a week before the rejection decision GNL president Tony Le Verger indicated Energie Saguenay and Gazoduq were still live economic propositions.
The Covid-19 pandemic inflicted a two-year construction delay. But GNL had a connection deal with TC’s national natural gas pipeline and an agreement with a European LNG import project, and was negotiating for supplies from Alberta and British Columbia.
The French Canadian LNG plan’s sponsors in the United States — the Ruby Capital team of California entrepreneurs Jim Illich and Jim Breyer — launched GNL Quebec in 2014, well before all the province’s political parties turned cold on fossil fuel projects.
The prevailing mood in Quebec shows in Charette’s full official title. He is ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques – Minister of the Environment and the Struggle Against Climate Change.
While fossil-fuel foes celebrated Charette’s announcement as a victory for global energy transition and climate change policies, the pro-development Montreal Economic Institute mourned the LNG project’s end as a loss for Quebec investment and employment.
“We need to understand that the project would in all likelihood have led to a global reduction in GHG emissions,” said institute operations director Miguel Ouellette.
“Of course, the developer could not provide a list of clients before the project was approved — that’s putting the cart before the horse. What was asked of them was simply unreasonable.”
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