Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman have issued an Environmental Assessment Certificate to Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. for the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project, which is located in northern B.C., starting near Dawson Creek and ending in Kitimat.
The decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office. The ministers have issued the certificate with legally-enforceable conditions that have given them the confidence to conclude that the project will be constructed, operated and decommissioned in a way that ensures that no significant adverse effects are likely to occur, with the exception of adverse effects on caribou and from greenhouse gas emissions.
There are 32 conditions that are part of the Environmental Assessment Certificate. Design restrictions are specified in the Certified Project Description. Each of the conditions and the Certified Project Description are legally-binding requirements that Coastal GasLink must meet to be in compliance with the certificate.
The certificate conditions were developed following consultation and input from Aboriginal groups, government agencies, communities and the public. Key conditions for the project require Coastal GasLink to:
- develop a greenhouse gas management plan that includes adherence to the Ministry of Natural Gas Development’s guidance on Best Available Techniques Economically Achievable, regulatory requirements to report on greenhouse gas emissions and site-specific mitigations;
- mitigate effects on caribou by avoiding sensitive caribou habitat wherever possible, avoiding increased impacts from predators and providing up to $1.5 million to fund caribou and predator monitoring work;
- prevent mortality risks to grizzly bears from displacement and disturbance and contribute up to $0.5 million to support the conservation and management of regional grizzly bear populations;
- identify areas of old growth forest for new protection to replace currently-protected old growth forest affected by the project at final route selection;
- ensure that marketable timber is salvaged for commercial use;
- continue to consult with Aboriginal groups on the project, including opportunities to participate in monitoring programs during project construction; and
- develop and implement a social and economic effects management plan to ensure strong engagement with local governments to minimize effects on community infrastructure and services.
In addition, Coastal GasLink proposed a number of significant route changes during the environmental assessment, based on feedback received during the process:
- Sukunka Pass Alternative - to reduce the corridor length within caribou ranges and a number of major river crossings;
- Revision B Nimbus Pass 2 Alternative - to avoid parks and protected areas and a number of major river crossings;
- Stuart River Crossing Alternate Corridor - to avoid critical habitat for the white sturgeon as identified in the proposed federal recovery strategy;
- Kitimat Valley Corridor Widening - consultation with stakeholders confirmed an interest in avoiding disturbance on lands within the Pine Creek Covenant and maintaining as much of the old forest west of Pine Creek as practical;
- Tchesinkut Creek Crossing Alternate Corridor - to avoid multiple crossings of Tchesinkut Creek in response to concerns from Nee-Tahi-Buhn Band;
- Marbled Murrelet Habitat Corridor widening - to allow for additional flexibility during construction planning and detailed engineering design to avoid marbled murrelet habitat; and
- Kitimat Valley Corridor Widening 2 - to provide flexibility in accommodating a request from Haisla Nation to revise the construction footprint to avoid culturally sensitive areas.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline will require various federal, provincial and local government permits. The majority of provincial permits are provided through the BC Oil & Gas Commission, the primary operational regulator of oil and gas activities in B.C. The Environmental Assessment Office will co-ordinate compliance management efforts with other government agencies to ensure that the office is satisfied that certificate conditions are met.
The $4.7-billion Coastal GasLink Pipeline project is a natural gas transmission pipeline that is approximately 675 kilometres long and 48 inches in diameter and will operate for at least 30 years. The pipeline will have an initial capacity of two to three billion cubic feet per day, with the potential to expand to five billion cubic feet per day.
During construction, the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project will create approximately 11,000 person years of direct employment and 8,900 person years of indirect employment in B.C. During operations, the project will provide approximately 150 direct and indirect jobs in B.C.
British Columbia’s environmental assessment process involves a rigorous, thorough review that provides for significant opportunities for First Nations, government agencies and the public to provide input on the potential for environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects from a proposed project.
Ministry of Environment
A strategic approach to LNG environmental assessments
The Government of British Columbia has been clear about the importance of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports as one of the most significant economic development opportunities of the decade.
The Environmental Assessment Office’s Strategic Approach:
In February 2013, two LNG-related projects were in the early stages of assessment by the Environmental Assessment Office. By February 2014, there were ten LNG-related pipeline and export facility projects in B.C. in various stages of review. In this context, the Environmental Assessment Office initiated a strategic approach to the review of LNG Projects.
Objectives of the Strategic Approach:
- early identification and resolution of issues across LNG projects;
- effective engagement with Aboriginal groups, stakeholders and the public;
- an efficient, robust and neutral regulatory regime; and
- a seamless approach between the Environmental Assessment Office’s review and permitting by the BC Oil and Gas Commission (in the event an environmental assessment certificate is issued).
The Environmental Assessment Office developed a number of mechanisms to meet its objectives of this approach to the assessment of LNG projects, including:
- undertaking a co-ordinated approach among provincial government agencies to address the effects of major industrial development on infrastructure, health, safety and social service demands in northern B.C.;
- establishing an LNG Regulatory Working Group representing most ministries across the government to assist with issue identification and provide advice;
- developing a Pipeline Corridor Analysis tool to enable early identification of multiple project effects and assist with consultation; and
- establishing a dedicated team within the Environmental Assessment Office to co-ordinate the review of LNG projects to ensure consistency and identify issues that affect more than one project.
Co-ordination with the BC Oil and Gas Commission:
The Environmental Assessment Office and the Oil and Gas Commission entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for LNG projects in B.C., to accomplish the following:
- prevent duplication between the Environmental Assessment Office and the Oil and Gas Commission;
- provide the opportunity for proponents to use “synchronous permitting” - a mechanism to run both the environmental assessment and permitting review processes at the same time. Synchronous permitting will enable permits to be issued in a timely way if an environmental assessment certificate is issued;
- co-ordinate engagement with the public;
- co-ordinate engagement with Aboriginal groups; and
- co-ordinate design of effective, legally enforceable conditions and a robust compliance and enforcement regime.
Results of the Strategic Approach:
The Environmental Assessment Office’s strategic approach has improved the consistency and efficiency of reviews for LNG projects undergoing environmental assessment in B.C. The approach has also resulted in the development of the following conditions for the Coastal GasLink project:
- a stewardship strategy with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations that will apply to all pipelines to manage effects on wildlife, old-growth forests and timber use;
- a framework to address potential socio-economic effects on local government infrastructure and services, communication, jobs, and skills training;
- opportunities to continue consultation with Aboriginal groups, including sharing information and providing them with a role in monitoring programs during construction;
- consistent and strategic mitigation to address cumulative effects across multiple LNG projects; and
- regional grizzly bear and caribou monitoring programs.
Ministry of Environment