November 21, 2005

Proposed Kitimat LNG project to undergo comprehensive study under federal EA Act

A comprehensive study is the most appropriate level of environmental assessment for the proposed Kitimat liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in British Columbia, federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion said recently. His decision was based on a report and recommendation submitted by Transport Canada and Environment Canada, the responsible federal authorities.

The report describes the scope of the proposed project, the factors to be considered in its environmental assessment, its potential to cause adverse environmental effects and the ability of the comprehensive study to address issues relating to the project. Public concerns submitted to authorities are summarized as well.

"Throughout the conduct of the comprehensive study, the specific concerns raised by First Nations, business groups and local government regarding shipping and safety in the area of the proposed project will be addressed," said Minister Dion. "I am also confident that proper mitigation measures will be applied to this project to reduce and minimize any potential adverse effects to an acceptable level."

Kitimat LNG is proposing to build and operate a LNG import, regasification and pipeline send-out terminal at Emsley Cove, approximately 18 km south of Kitimat. The terminal would include marine off-loading, LNG storage, natural gas liquids recovery, regasification and pipeline send-out facilities.

Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Minister has the option, early in the process, of deciding whether a project should continue to be assessed as a comprehensive study or be referred to an independent review panel. If the comprehensive study track is selected, the project cannot be referred to a review panel at a later date.

Transport Canada and Environment Canada will now continue the comprehensive study and submit their final report to the Environment Minister. The report will be made available for public comment before the Minister makes a final decision on whether the project should proceed.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will act as the federal environmental assessment co-ordinator for this environmental assessment in order to co-ordinate the participation of federal departments.

The report on which the Minister's decision was based may be requested from Robert Sisler, regional manager, environmental services, with Transport Canada, 604/666-5370, E-mail sislerr@tc.gc.ca.

Following up on Dion's decision, the Agency is providing $40,000 from its participant funding program to three applicants to support their participation in the Kitimat LNG project EA. The recipients include the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, Kitimat Valley Naturalists and the Kitamaat Village Council. Their selection was based on recommendations made by an independent funding review committee, whose report may be viewed on the Agency's Web site, www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca. More information is also available on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry, reference number 05-03-10430.

In related activities, the Minister has announced amendments to regulations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act which will make future offshore oil and gas exploratory drilling projects subject to a screening type environmental assessment rather than the current comprehensive study type of assessment. Revisions to the Comprehensive Study List Regulations will be published in the November 30, 2005 edition of the Canada Gazette, Part II.

The decision to proceed with the amendments followed an extensive review by the Minister's multi-sectoral Regulatory Advisory Committee and a 30-day public consultation period on the regulatory proposal this past spring.

"The science indicates that the environmental effects of offshore oil and gas exploratory drilling are, in general, minor, localized, short in duration and reversible. Under the legislated criteria, a screening type assessment would provide an appropriate level of assessment for such projects," Dion said.

A screening is a rigorous and systematic review that examines the environmental effects of a proposed project including its cumulative effects, and also establishes methods for minimizing any effects. If the screening indicates any significant effects or public concerns, the Minister has the option of referring the project to a review panel.

Comments received during the 30-day public consultation process noted the importance of public participation which is mandatory during a comprehensive study. Dion said responsible authorities will continue to include consultation as part of the screening process for environmental assessments of offshore exploratory drilling.

While oil and gas explorations in the offshore will, from now on, be subject to a screening, there are no changes to the comprehensive study requirements for offshore production facilities and offshore pipelines, including associated public consultations and participant funding.

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