Townhall will update Kitimat on LNG projects

The Kitimat Northern Sentinel | Rod Link | January 20 2018

Kitimat residents are invited to a Jan. 27 townhall to gain the latest updates on planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects here and to learn more about the challenges affecting the industry.

Organizer David Johnston, a local business owner, says residents will also be given the opportunity to express their opinions on the importance of an LNG industry to Kitimat’s economic future.

He’s describing it as a call to action on the part of the community, citing a number of recent moves which could affect final investment decisions on the part of the two planned LNG projects here, LNG Canada and Kitimat LNG.

“This is a chance for our voice to be heard,” said Johnston.

Johnston’s worry list includes last year’s imposition by the federal government of tariffs on imported fabricated industrial steel components to counter what it calls prices being offered by foreign companies at below normal rates, a practice known as ‘dumping’.

That was done to protect eastern Canadian-based domestic manufacturers, but the LNG industry says there are no Canadian companies of the size that can provide what LNG facilities need.

And the threat of the tariffs would add billions to projects such as the two planned for Kitimat.

Johnston said the added expense of tariffs on LNG plan components would put projects out of reach when compared to costs of projects being planned elsewhere around the world.

“You’ve got to be crazy to do anything like that here. We need to be competitive with the rest of the world,” he said.

Information circulated last year by the LNG industry stated that even if domestic manufacturers could supply the modules, transporting them from the east to the west coast would be cost-prohibitive when compared to unloading them from ships directly to the project site.

Johnston also pointed to an agreement signed late last year by the Chinese company Sinopec to investigate the possibility of locating a LNG project in Alaska as a sign of waning interest in a Canadian-based LNG industry.

Sinopec was one of the key players in the Pacific Northwest LNG project near Prince Rupert which was shelved last year.

A further threat rests with American president Donald Trump’s lowering of tax rates for American companies, Johnston added.

“Those tax rates are now below even what they are in Canada and that becomes a competitive issue,” he said.

Johnston, through Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross, has been lining up speakers, the list already including a representative from Shell-lead LNG Canada.

He’s also going to reach out to Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen given the federal nature of the anti-dumping manufactured steel component tariff.

Ross said he’s frustrated at what he sees as a loss of interest on the part of the NDP government in promoting LNG.

“All the signals are there,” said Ross last week. “There was the cancellation last year of an LNG conference in Vancouver. There’s the increase coming in the carbon tax. B.C. is becoming a place not to invest,” he said.

And like Johnston, Ross focussed on on the Alaskan LNG agreement signed by Sinopec.

“When Pacific Northwest LNG was cancelled, they said it was about market conditions. But with Sinopec now in Alaska, what does that say?” he asked.

In addition to LNG issues, Ross will also be speaking at the townhall about the coming provincial referendum on whether or not B.C. should shift to a legislature chosen through proportional representation as opposed to the current first-past-the-post system.

“This is the single biggest issue against democracy in B.C.,” said Ross. “It will directly go against rural B.C.”

That’s because proportional representation raises the prospect of MLAs being chosen based on overall numbers of votes received as opposed to being selected to represent specific geographic areas, Ross continued.

“What you will have is parties making deals to be in power, not to represent the people who elected them,” he said.

“I’m seeing that now in Victoria,” Ross said of the deal reached between the Greens and the NDP to have the latter form the current government.

The Jan. 27 townhall takes place at Riverlodge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include lunch.

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