B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver debates in the B.C. legislature. His efforts to stop new tax incentives for LNG Canada have been voted down 83-3 by the NDP and B.C. Liberals. (Hansard TV)

B.C. VIEWS: Is the NDP giving away our natural gas reserves?

Andrew Weaver again denounces the government he put in power

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver ridiculed the minority NDP government last week for its “generational sellout” of exporting the province’s abundant natural gas reserves to Asia.

“I sat opposite for four years as I watched the members now in government hurl abuse at the B.C. Liberals,” Weaver roared in debate over Premier John Horgan’s latest tax breaks to seal the huge LNG Canada deal in northern B.C.

Weaver summed up his objection to the NDP’s liquefied natural gas policy this way.

“That’s the base level of politics and natural gas in B.C. ‘We’re going to try to deliver what Christy Clark couldn’t.’ The only way to do that is to take the giveaway … to a whole new level like we’ve never seen in Canada in terms of corporate welfare.”

Weaver has expressed fury since Horgan surprised everyone last fall by announcing his government had reached a deal with LNG Canada partners Shell, PetroChina, Mitsubishi and Korea Gas to make the largest private investment in Canadian history. Petronas, the Malaysian energy giant that walked away from a similar project for Prince Rupert, soon bought in to LNG Canada’s Kitimat shipping complex and Pacific GasLink pipeline to bring the vast gas reserves from the Dawson Creek area to the coast for compression and export as LNG.

READ MORE: B.C. gas investment taxes second highest in Canada

READ MORE: B.C.’s carbon tax costs more than the natural gas

Weaver’s accusation of a giveaway focuses on B.C.’s deep-well royalty credit program, which allows gas producers to deduct credits from royalties once qualifying shale gas wells start producing. He notes that the accumulated credits for B.C. producers are now more than $3 billion, as thousands of wells have reached into deep shale formations for decades worth of gas production.

The latest B.C. budget projects natural gas royalty revenues of $229 million for the current year and $206 million next year. Weaver’s argument is that much of this revenue is clawed back by the deep well credit, and then Shell and other producers get to use nearly free gas to power the refrigeration and compression plants used to turn gas into liquids for loading on ships.

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall reminds me that there is a minimum royalty that all producers must pay. It’s not much: three per cent on gas revenue for wells deeper than 1,900 metres, and six per cent for wells shallower than 1,900 metres.

Royalties also vary with price, which has dipped to historic lows as B.C. gas remains landlocked and our only export customer, the U.S., has developed and started exporting its own shale gas reserves. I reported last fall on the surprise that hit natural gas heating customers when B.C.’s latest increase in carbon tax made the tax more than the charge for the gas they used.

Horgan and Mungall, like former premier Clark and former minister Rich Coleman before them, emphasize that B.C. is in a fiercely competitive market that includes Russia, Qatar and other huge gas producers. Either we compete or we wind down the biggest industry in northern B.C.

For an independent look at whether B.C. is giving away its gas, University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz has a new study that finds B.C.’s total tax rate on new natural gas investments is 31.9 per cent, fifth highest of producing regions in North America. Only Saskatchewan’s is higher among provinces.

Then there are the environmental impacts of B.C.’s shale gas boom, including hydraulic fracturing and greenhouse gas impact. I’ll examine those in a future column.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislaturelng canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young Abbotsford cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Parents upset as Abbotsford School District maximizes class sizes for financial reasons

Classes and cohorts shuffled after division eliminated at King Traditional elementary school

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

VIDEO: Shots fired outside Langley gas station that was scene of 2018 homicide

No reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read