In a decision which could have repercussions across the country, a Quebec-based liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is on the ropes after Quebec’s environmental assessment agency found the project’s social and environmental costs outweigh its benefits. The GNL Québec (GNLQ) project would include a 780 km gas pipeline (built by Gazoduq) and a plant which turns the gas into a liquid (built by Énergie Saguenay) and an export terminal for LNG supertankers.
A devastating report for LNG projects across in the country
Quebec’s Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (known as the BAPE) is the independent body responsible for carrying out environmental assessments of projects in Quebec. On March 24, it published a devastating report for GNLQ that found that the project would increase global GHGs, hinder the transition to renewable energy and present new risks to the already-endangered Saint Lawrence belugas.
These findings will likely be cited in any future reviews of LNG projects in Canada. Here are some excerpts from the over-500 page BAPE report:
- Globally, GNLQ “would result in a net addition of greenhouse gas emissions” (p.327).
- GNLQ’s GHG emissions “would be around 45.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year” (p.304), which is the equivalent of the pollution of more than 10 million vehicles on the roads for at least 25 years.
- “There is no guarantee or way of ensuring that the liquefied natural gas produced by the liquefaction complex would effectively serve as a substitute for more polluting fuels in the target export markets” (p.321).
- “The establishment of new LNG export infrastructure could act as a brake on the energy transition in the markets targeted by the project” (p.4)
- GNLQ “would constitute an outlet for the production of Canadian natural gas, and would result in the increase of production in Canada, thus contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions generated by this activity”. (p.310)
- GNLQ “would contribute to the maintenance or growth of the oil and gas sector in Western Canada when it would be necessary, according to the International Energy Agency, for large quantities of hydrocarbon reserves to remain untapped to achieve the central objective of the Paris Agreement.” (p.119)
- GNLQ would add “400 LNG carrier transits on the Saguenay and “that due to the precarious state and the current “endangered” status of the beluga population in the St. Lawrence Estuary, any additional stress, including that generated by the increase in maritime traffic, must be considered as a non-negligible risk for its recovery and survival.” (p.10)
The Quebec government must reject the project now
The BAPE’s review is now in the hands of the provincial government, which must make the final decision as to whether it can proceed. According to the BAPE report, GNLQ does not meet any of the three essential conditions set by the Government of Quebec: that it must contribute to the energy transition, achieve social acceptability and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
A few days after the publication of the BAPE report, 60 groups representing citizens, environmentalists, communities, unions, health specialists and student associations, as well as the three opposition parties in Quebec, jointly asked the Legault government to immediately reject the project.
The BAPE report and very strong public opposition provide all the information the Quebec government needs to immediately reject this project, which would undermine the climate goals of Quebec and Canada and worsen the global climate crisis. The groups urged the government to not meet with the project sponsors behind closed doors, but rather to finalize the government’s assessment now and turn the page on this bad project.
There is not and never will be social acceptance for LNG in Quebec
Quebec’s environmental review process places a great deal of emphasis on whether a project has “social acceptability” (i.e. public support). The lack of social acceptability for the GNLQ project was evident in a new Léger poll (conducted from March 19 to 21) which revealed that 52% of Quebecers are against the project while only 27% are in favor. There are therefore nearly twice as many Quebeckers who oppose the project compared to those who are in favor. This represents a sharp increase over four months previous, which shows that the more people hear about the project the more they oppose it.
Now all the opposition parties in the Quebec National Assembly, representing 58% of voters, are saying no to GNL Quebec. This is in addition to the more than 121,000 anti-LNG petition signatories and the record participation in the GNLQ BAPE hearings. Of the more than 2,500 briefs submitted to the hearings, 91% of which were opposed due to a combination of social, environmental and economic concerns.
Finally, environmental and citizen groups revealed that if the Legault government authorized the GNLQ project, Hydro-Quebec customers would see a nearly $ 10 billion increase in their bills over the first 25 years of the project. This translates into a province-wide 2.5% increase in electricity rates as of 2030.
It is obvious that Quebecers do not want to know anything about this project. The Legault government has until the end of the summer to approve or reject the project. Tell the Premier he has no choice but to reject the GNLQ project.