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NDP will 'fully realize' economic potential of liquefied gas: platform

The BC NDP's position on liquefied natural gas got a little clearer Wednesday afternoon, with the official release of its party platform. Though some key policy questions remain unanswered.

First off, the platform confirmed that an NDP government led by Adrian Dix would continue to support the nascent LNG industry first proposed under Liberal Premier Christy Clark.

True, it refers to the burgeoning sector as "promising but still uncertain." The NDP nevertheless intends "to fully realize the economic potential offered by liquefied natural gas."

An NDP government, moreover, would "build this new industry in a responsible and sustainable manner," the platform promises.

So what does "responsible and sustainable" amount to?

The NDP platform reiterated the party’s pledge to broaden B.C.'s carbon tax, so that it covers carbon emissions vented by oil and gas operations -- a change it expects to add $35 million to provincial coffers from 2014 to 2015, and $100 million by 2017.

(Clark's Liberals have referred to the pledge as a "job-killing natural gas tax.")

Yet the NDP platform is unclear on how B.C. would actually power any new liquefied gas terminals, beyond promising to pursue "green energy options."

This is a major question of public policy, given that multiple facilities could consume as much electricity as millions of provincial households.

Obtaining all this power from burning natural gas, as some industry proponents have suggested, "will make it impossible for the province to meet its climate change commitments," the Pembina Institute's Matt Horne calculated.

The Liberals have promised that LNG facilities in B.C. will be "the cleanest in the world." As The Tyee reported earlier this month, Clark's government has made key policy changes observers say seriously undermine that promise.

Would an NDP government also refer to natural gas as a "clean" energy source? And maintain cutbacks to a program that helps support green First Nations jobs?

Or would it break with the Liberals by demanding LNG producers fully power their terminals with renewable energy?

Those questions will need to be answered if, as the platform promises, the NDP truly plans to move B.C. towards "the forefront of tomorrow's green economy."

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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