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Opinion

With Good Stewardship, LNG Can Be a Social Good

Projects create opportunities, so long as they benefit Canadian workers.

By Lionel Railton 28 Oct 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Lionel Railton is Canadian director of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

The Government of Canada’s decision to move forward with the Pacific Northwest LNG project is a commendable one, not only because of its economic potential, but also the social good it can provide to ordinary Canadians. Liquefied natural gas projects can create huge opportunities for Canadians, so long as they benefit hardworking Canadians, support the local economy, and protect our natural environment.

The B.C. government projects that the Pacific Northwest LNG project could generate more than 18,000 jobs. It estimates that, when combined, the total demand expected for B.C. LNG projects could produce tens of thousands of jobs. These jobs provide good paycheques, secure employment, and experience for the workers that fill them.

Canada is fortunate to have the skilled workforce to construct, operate and manage these projects. Through training programs, coordinated by the provinces, labour organizations and First Nations communities, the available pool of skilled tradespeople has grown substantially over the last decade. We have Canadians eager to work if only the jobs were available.

The decision to move ahead with the Pacific Northwest LNG project could not have come at a better time for Canadian workers. In the last two years an estimated 100,000 oil and gas workers have lost their jobs. These workers are increasingly worried there is no relief for them and that they have become permanent collateral damage. LNG projects will provide the relief that these Canadian workers need.

LNG projects also produce revenues that contribute directly to financing the social programs that help Canadian communities grow and prosper. Taxes and royalties collected from these projects can help pay down government debt and offset the costs of healthcare and education. Additionally, they can be used to support the growth of renewable energy alternatives. Alberta’s climate change strategy provides an example for how revenues from the oil and gas sector can be reinvested in renewable energy.

Understandably there are concerns about the environmental impact of these LNG projects. The extraction and transport of natural gas does impact the environment, but it is not as negative as critics claim it to be. One recent study by a coalition of environmental organizations shows that Canada is on the way to achieving the targets set by the Paris Agreement, but that further actions need to be layered on existing provincial commitments. In the context of that study’s conclusions, new pipelines would not measurably add to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions under existing economic and policy conditions.

Other analyses by the U.N. Deep Decarbonization Project, the Trottier Energy Futures Project, and the C.D. Howe Institute demonstrate that global greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced through the phasing out of coal as an energy source, and that natural gas can be used to ease this process.

LNG projects have the potential to be a social good, so long as they are governed by good leadership and stewardship. The intense review process involved in their approval is one way that these projects are held to high safety and environmental standards. Decisions that recognize the long-term benefits for society, and thoroughly weight the costs, also ensure these projects will have a positive impact. The federal government’s decision to move ahead with this project shows their commitment to Canada’s economy and environment, and the balanced approach necessary to invest in both.

The approval of LNG, through projects like Pacific Northwest LNG, is one of many stepping stones towards building a sustainable energy sector, creating good jobs and growing an economy that works for all Canadians.  [Tyee]

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