Malahat LNG: LNG project holds Saanich Inlet economic development hostage

Originally posted on September 4, 2015 on adamolsen.ca

I have been interviewed a handful of times since the announcement of Malahat LNG. In most of those interviews I have been asked to justify my opposition to the project in light of the suggestion made by Steelhead LNG and Malahat First Nation that the project would generate hundreds of jobs and a significant long-term financial windfall.

This is definitely the language that the liquefied natural gas (LNG) lobby and the B.C. Liberal government wants to hear from reporters. For sure there is economic generation at all stages of the process from initial announcement to decommissioning, but those investments pale in comparison to the exaggerated speculation we often hear as to the potential upside.

I am troubled by the “long-term lease” that has been signed between Steelhead and Malahat. For all intents and purposes the Saanich Inlet is now an LNG Inlet and every decision made here will be in this context.

As bad a place the Saanich Inlet is for an LNG terminal and as outrageous as the pipeline route may seem, it is important to take the Malahat LNG project seriously because it is already negatively affecting the local economy and it will continue in the short, medium and long-term.

If the Malahat LNG project achieves all the approvals it needs to go to the construction phase, they will only go forward if it is economically viable. In my opinion, LNG plays are highly speculative, generate low-modest economic investment in the early stages and it is highly unlikely that most if not all of the proposals currently on the table will get to the final investment decision, meaning they will not go ahead.

In the meantime, places like the Saanich Inlet, with all its communities, villages and First Nations have a shroud of highly speculative heavy industrial development draped over its future.

LNG sacrifices regional economic opportunities for a hypothetical bonanza of LNG revenues to the provincial government. Propertyvalues are negatively impacted, business-owners will be beginning to prepare for changes and other more realistic economic development opportunities go elsewhere where they can find more certainty without the threat of an LNG terminal if, and it is a very big if, the facility ever gets built.

The Saanich Inlet should not have an economy that is based on the uncertain, environmentally, socially and economically damaging LNG industry. I chose to take immediate action on the Malahat LNG project because it began impacting our community immediately.

I don’t just want to oppose a project that I believe is going to hold the communities surrounding the Saanich Inlet hostage until all the stars align for LNG to be viable in British Columbia. I hope that we can use this application to instead bring our communities together to define a realistic vision for the future.

If you would like a different future for the Saanich Inlet please join the Saanich Inlet Network.